Why Buy Local?

"Eat Local, Buy Local, Be Local" is the new explosion of interest consumers are showing in locally-produced food. With all the choices we have of different labels, places to shop, and ways to shop on the internet, people are left wondering where to start. The best thing we can do is to learn what's happening in the local movement so we can better understand the concept of local food.

Talk of local food is everywhere, but what does it mean? How local is local? Local means different things to different people, depending on where they live, how long their growing season is, and what products they are looking for.

Practically speaking, local food production can be thought of in concentric circles that start with growing food at home. The next ring out might be food grown in our immediate neighborhood, then community, county, and finally state, region, and country. For some parts of the year or for some products that thrive in the local climate, it may be possible to buy closer to home. At other times, or for less common products, an expanded reach may be required.

Locavores are people who value local as their primary food criterion. These are people who promote eating a diet of food harvested within a 100-mile radius of where they live and eating them in season.

You can start buying local by choosing one product to focus on. Vegetables and fruits are often a good place to start because they are only available seasonally and are an excellent way to learn about local agriculture. Next, seek out sources for local meat, poultry, or dairy foods, and then you may want to start experimenting in the kitchen with local recipes, cookbooks, tips, and other culinary tidbits.

The basic concept is simple: local foods are produced as close to home as possible. Buying local supports a more sustainable food system because true sustainability goes beyond the methods used in food production to include every step that brings food from farm to your plate.

Did you know that communities reap more economic benefits from the presence of small farms than they do from the large, industrial ones? Studies have shown that small farms re-invest more money into the local economies by purchasing feed, seed, and other materials from local businesses, whereas large farms often order in bulk from distant suppliers and sell their produce outside the community as well.

Check out websites like Shop Sustainable and Eat Well Guide or visit Sustainable Kitchen.