By Jenna Jackson
Farmer’s Market season is upon us! We are so fortunate in the valley to have so many wonderful farmers who take care of us during the growing season (and quite some time after!) The benefits of eating locally are endless. Yes, the food is healthier. Yes, it’s more sustainable and yes, it tastes better. Here’s why…
Local Food is More Nutrient Dense:
Local produce is picked right before the farmer sells it to you. Therefore, they pick fruit and vegetables in the ripest stage of growth. Research shows that when fruit and vegetables are ripe, the nutrient content is at its highest. Alternatively, store bought produce is picked long before it’s ripe so it can make the long journey to the grocery store from where it was grown. When our food is rich in nutrients, our bodies are happier. Have you ever had an experience eating poor quality food and not feeling quite satisfied or full? This is because your body knows it needs more nutrients to satisfy its needs/ deficiencies. Yes, organic and local produce costs more, but you will have to eat less of it to feel satisfied.
Seasonal eating has a lot to do with how our bodies are in rhythm with nature, the changing of the seasons, and how food can support these changes to keep us balanced and healthy. Small local farms are always growing what is in season. For example; right now we are seeing lots of lettuces, sprouts, garlic scapes, baby beets, baby carrots, kale and fresh herbs. These are fresh foods best served raw to keep us cool and energized during long hot summer days. In the fall we will see older kale, bigger beets, root vegetables and other veggies that need to be cooked. In the fall we start to move inward, we crave warmer cooked foods to keep us in balance and nourished for winter.
Local or Organic?
If you had the choice between local or organic, what would you choose? Organic, or certified organic means grown without the use of pesticides or chemicals, but it may still have to travel a long way to get to your plate, risking nutritional value. Local food may not always mean organic. Be sure to talk to your farmer about it. Most small local farms grow produce and raise animals without the use of chemicals, antibiotics and pesticides but haven’t purchased the certification. Becoming ‘Certified Organic’ is a lengthy and expensive process; some small farms just don’t have the profit margins to justify getting the certification. The beauty of buying directly from the grower is that you can have conversations around where your food comes from and how it was grown.
Many local farmers use sustainable farming methods to grow food and raise livestock. Methods such as Permaculture and Biodynamic farming are environmentally friendly methods of farming. Without going into major detail, the goal of these two farming methods is to mimic nature, and use the moon and natural elements to decipher when to plant, harvest and water. Nature is full of thriving self sustaining ecosystems with many symbiotic relationships between plants and animals. Why not farm this way, instead of soil depleting mono-crops and feed lot cattle that require major land clearing?
According to Michael Pollan, an expert in food sustainability, the average meal travels 1500 miles to reach your plate. Imagine the amount of fossil fuels it took to get your avocado, banana, pineapple fruit smoothie into your glass. This is something I wonder often as I drink avocado, banana smoothies regularly. What would it be like to eat only local, for at least one week? As consumers, we cast a vote every time we make a purchase. Vote local, shop local, eat local!