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4 Reasons to Buy Local

Whenever possible, we here at AMP encourage you to buy your food locally! “What are the benefits to buying local,” you ask? Here are our top four reasons:

 

  1. It’s better for you

Local produce does not need to travel as far to the market (or to you), so it can be picked at peak freshness. This means that it will not only look better, but it will spend less time in transit or in storage losing nutrients. Currently, the average travel distance for food is 1,500 miles, during which the produce loses nourishing value.[1] Local farmers also grow seasonally, so you can be sure that the produce that you are consuming is in season and therefore is more fresh, healthy and less exposed to chemicals and preservatives.

Additionally, the crop varieties that are chosen for large-scale and international production are high yielding, but less nutritional.[2] These globalized food systems have consolidated distribution networks, which can increase the risk of food safety problems as a result of improper processing, handling, or preparation that affects vast quantities of food.[3]

 

  1. It supports your local community

The fewer than 1 million Americans who claim farming as their primary occupation now get less than 10 cents on the retailer food dollar.[4] However, when these local farmers sell directly to the consumer, they can receive the full retail price for their products, and this can help them stay in business and on their land.

Farmers embedded in your neighborhood will spend their earnings in the community to buy agricultural inputs such as machinery, seeds, and tools. Therefore, the local economy receives a boost and the money that you spend will stay in, and benefit, your area. Furthermore, jobs are created on the farms themselves as well as in community food processing and distribution centers. One such center include food hubs, which are described by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as, “drop off point for multiple farmers and pick up point for distribution firms and customers who want to buy source-verified local and regional food.”[5] Food hubs help small family farms transport and distribute their products, along with other business-related services like logistics and storage.[6] These centers employ community members and can expand access to fresh food in the market. Since 2009, food hubs in the U.S. have created 3,000 new jobs and generated $600 million in sales.[7] Other direct-to-consumer mechanisms can include: community-supported agriculture in which individuals buy a “share” of a farm’s harvest, pick-your-own farms, on-site farm stands, and gleaning programs that have consumers pick from the remaining crops after the harvest is over.

Finally, farms have been shown to contribute more in taxes than they require in services. For every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, the government must spend $1.17 on services, yet for each $1 in revenue raised by a farm, the government only spends 34 cents on services.[8] This means lower taxes for the taxpayers.

 

  1. It’s good for the environment

Industrial farming practices negatively impact the environment by polluting the water and air, excessively consuming fossil fuels and resources, degrading soil quality, increasing erosion, and contributing to biodiversity loss through monocropping.[9] Local agriculture is able to choose crop varieties based on season, climate, and preference rather than the plant’s ability to ripen systematically and withstand harvesting, packaging, and long travel. This preserves genetic diversity in crops, and this diversification is good for conserving the fertility of the soil. Moreover, supporting local farmland ensures that there will be more open, undeveloped space in your community.

Small-scale and local farmers also minimize food transport and packaging needs, and are less reliant on extensive refrigerating systems and fuel use. This means fewer greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere, and less resource consumption in the distribution and storage stages of the food chain.

 

  1. It’s important for food security and sovereignty

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations indicates that “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”[10] Supporting your local farmers ensures that your community will have continued access to fresh produce, and gives you greater control over your food system. It connects you to the land and to the individual farmers, and is an investment in the people and the future of food security in your neighborhood. Many initiatives and efforts are being made to strengthen these local systems, and establish food security for all parts of community. From 2008 to today, the number of local vendors that accept SNAP payments has increased from 753 to 6,400.[11] In 2010, the USDA launched new Farm to School programs, and, during the 2013-2014 academic year, school districts spent $800 million on locally-sourced food.[12]

 

Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack reports that, between 2009 and 2015, the USDA “invested over $1 billion in more than 40,000 local and regional food businesses and infrastructure projects,” and declared embedding local and regional food systems as one of its four pillars of supporting the rural American economy.[13] You can use the USDA’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” Initiative compass to find federally-supported local food projects in your area, as well as the National Farmers Market Directory to find your community farmers’ market. Help keep the food industry local, and make the healthy food choices that support your farmers, community, and environment!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image source: faungg’s photos 

https://www.flickr.com/photos/44534236@N00/

[1] “Top Ten Reasons for Buying Local,” Good Earth Food Alliance, accessed October 25, 2016, http://www.goodearthfoodalliance.com/top-ten-reasons-for-buying-local.

[2] “Local & Regional Food Systems,” Grace Communications Foundation, accessed October 25, 2016, http://www.sustainabletable.org/254/local-regional-food-systems.

[3] “Local & Regional Food Systems,” Grace Communications Foundation.

[4] “Top Ten Reasons for Buying Local,” Good Earth Food Alliance.

[5]“Local & Regional Food Systems,” Grace Communications Foundation.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Tom Vilsack, “New Markets, New Opportunities: Strengthening Local Food Systems and Organic Agriculture,” United States Department of Agriculture, April 4, 2016, accessed October 25, 2016, https://medium.com/usda-results/new-markets-new-opportunities-strengthening-local-food-systems-and-organic-agriculture-17b529c5ea90#.ezkrpxicc.

[8] “Top Ten Reasons for Buying Local,” Good Earth Food Alliance.

[9] “Local & Regional Food Systems,” Grace Communications Foundation.

[10] “Local & Regional Food Systems,” Grace Communications Foundation.

[11] Vilsack, “New Markets, New Opportunities.”

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

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