Every weekend you’ll see farmers’ markets popping up in every town and city across the country. More and more people are beginning to consider the impact of their daily life on the environment. For many, buying local produce is a part of that -and you can see why. It has a host of benefits for health and wellbeing, the economy and the environment. From your food being fresher and tastier to creating jobs and increased reinvestment back into your community, there really are many reasons to buy local produce!
Your food will be fresher and more nutritious due to being picked at the perfect time. Imported food can often be picked before ripening and artificially ripened when they arrive at their destination – this often leads to the taste, sight, smell and touch being not-quite-right. This is avoided with locally grown produce which can often go from field to market shelf within as little as a day, a fraction of the time it takes to get from one side of the country (or world….) to the other. Furthermore, when travelling a lesser distance – and passing through less hands –there is less chance of contamination.
Chemical pesticides are less likely to be used by smaller farms that serve the local community – they are more likely to be organic/use organic practices. Natural biopesticides are more likely to be used which don’t carry the same health risks to the consumer as chemical pesticides residues can when they remain on fruit and veg. Since you are buying directly from the local suppliers you can ask questions about their practices – something that just isn’t possible when buying from the supermarket shelves.
Mental health can also be greatly improved by shopping for local produce. Getting out and about, meeting the producers and making connections in your local community can be great for your general wellbeing – especially during this time of limited interactions due to the Covid pandemic. You might even get yourself some bargains down the farmers’ market or get some insider tips!
Whenever you buy from a local grower your hard-earned cash will be staying in your community rather than going into the pockets of the big supermarkets chains. Since there are less links in the supply chain, local farmers will make a bigger profit – less businesses will need to get their slice! Buying local helps these small producers stay in business, avoiding the take-over from large corporations or the need to sell land to local developers.
Jobs will also be created with in the area too as farmers grow their businesses. By buying local produce you are not only keeping the farmer in a job – there are lots of other workers that work tirelessly behind-the-scenes to produce what we eat. Jobs are also created in the community too from organizers of the farmers markets to local delivery drivers.
Local businesses will also improve – for example, coffee shops can up their game by selling local produce, making them more attractive to customers and, in turn, raising the bar for its competitors. Businesses nearby the weekly farmers markets will benefit on busy market days, allowing them to reinvest and grow too. There is potential for lots of local businesses to benefit in some way whether that be improving their product-offering, increasing profit or both.
Imported food can sometime travel thousands of miles just to get to your plate. These ‘food miles’ result in a large carbon footprint – primarily due to emissions caused by transport – for what can sometimes only be a small box of strawberries! Due to increased accessibility, the miles that the customer needs to travel to buy their food is also decreased – there tends to be a market within walking or cycling distance of most neighborhoods. The car can be ditched on market day to decrease food-associated miles even more!
The use of biopesticides by small-farm owners also has a significant impact on the environment. Chemical pesticides can pollute soil, interfering with the delicate dynamics that exist. They can also pollute waterways and have a detrimental effect on many aquatic species. Organic practices that local producers tend to use can avoid these environmental impacts, whilst also being better for your health as we previously touched on – it’s a win-win!
Food waste is another huge environmental concern – shopping locally can reduce this. Cosmetic standards of fruit and veg can be set by large supermarket chains, a bit wonky or misshapen and they will not accept it. It is estimated that up to 40% of farm produce may be disposed because it does not reach the required standard – thousands of tons of edible food wasted. Farmers’ markets can sell these apples that are deemed ‘too red’ (yes, really…) and fruits with microscopic blemishes. Due to the food reaching the shelves sooner they are less likely to be wasted due to spoilage too.
The bottom line
Whether you choose to shop locally to help create jobs or to lower your carbon footprint it doesn’t really matter – either way it has a cascade of positive impacts for people and the planet. Luckily, there will be a benefit that resonates with most people whether they wish to protect their health, the local economy or the environment. Get out there and see what your community has to offer – you won’t be disappointed!