We’ve talked a lot about our carbon footprints, living green, green building, and how what we do and the way we live has such an impact on our environment. I’m a big fan, and it seems like every single month I’m making more strides to make better, greener choices. Part of this is shopping local for our food, an approach we call locavorism.
Locavorism has so many benefits!
When we think about eating local food, we begin to realize all the benefits to this mindset, both on our own health but also on our local economy. What’s local? Local food is grown within 100 miles of your location.
Have you ever wondered where your tomatoes come from at the market? The more miles they have to travel, the greener they are when picked, and the less nutritious they are. In fact, most farmers grow food to look good and travel long distances. (Read, healthy is not a top priority for a lot of large producers.) This means that food that looks great on the store shelves and in the produce bins is usually rougher in texture and is consequently tougher to eat and digest.
A study done by UC Davis found that fresh produce loses a significant amount of nutrition in a very short amount of time. For example, refrigerated peas lose half their vitamin C just 48 hours after being picked. The numbers are far higher after 7 days for spinach (75%) and green beans (77%). I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to buy from local farmers who picked their food fresh within the last 24 hours.
Better Food Shed Practices
What would happen if we approached our food management the same way we approached our rainwater practices? Portland is fastidious when it comes to managing storm water and for good reason — there’s a lot of it to manage and managing it well means a healthier city. We know where it’s collected, where it’s going, and ways to help it get there with minimal invasiveness. (You can read more about storm water management in Portland here.) We can do the same with our food sources. When we know how things are produced, how they’re transported, and the chemicals and fertilizers used in the process, we can, as a result, make better choices for both our own health and the health of our environment.
More Flavorful Food
We’ve already mentioned that food that’s been shipped over long distances has a tougher texture, but it also lacks flavor. Think about the difference between a garden-fresh tomato still warm from the sun and one that’s plucked off the grocery store shelf 1000 miles from it’s original home. It’s like comparing heaven to cardboard. And I’ll always choose fresh — Yum!!
One of the best things about Portland is so many of our local restaurants source their food locally, from vegetables to beers and wines to meat. Challenge yourself to eat local while you’re out. You’ll definitely taste the difference!
Supports the Local Economy
When you dive into locavorism and decide to eat more local, you’re supporting a local farmer and building your local economy. Basically, you’re supporting your neighbors and making sure your monies stay local. In fact, I wrote an article a while back about becoming a shareholder in a local farm. Best. Choice. Ever.
If you aren’t ready to invest in a local farm, see if there are any community gardens in your neighborhood. Portland Parks & Recreation has information on starting your own community garden if you can’t find any nearby.
Benefits the Environment
Supporting local farms keeps the farmland around you healthy and strong. You’re encouraging agriculture and open spaces in your community. Additionally, the fewer steps between you and your food, the less chance there is of contamination, which can occur during harvesting, washing, shipping, and distribution. Fewer trucks on the road, and less time getting from the field to you. Straight from the farm to you is always best! Not to mention, you can ask the farmer any questions directly.
These are the perks of locavorism, especially if you’re shopping a local farmers market.