Buy Local for You--But for Your Community, Too!
A guest blog by Bailey Mennona, The Food Systems Nutritionist.
Bailey Mennona is a Virginia Beach mom and military spouse who's a big fan of Fall Line Farms and Local Roots, even though she lives too far away to be a member. She has a BS in Nutrition and a Masters in Sustainable Food Systems. She is "constantly questioning the status quo of nutrition and the food system." This is her first guest column. You can find her on Twitter (@FSnutritionist) on Instagram (@thefoodsystemsnutritionist) and on Facebook as The Food Systems Nutritionist.
Local food is often touted as being super beneficial for consumers. And it is!
When consumers buy local, they enjoy personal interactions at farmers markets and fresher food than when they buy at supermarkets. Food is tastier and more nutritious due to not having to travel as far.
But buying local also extends outward from our own tables and benefits our communities. It helps improve the local economy by keeping money at home, thus creating more jobs. And consumers gain influence when they can talk directly with farmers about their farming methods and ask for what they want.
But what about the producers? How does purchasing local food help those who work tirelessly in the fields to feed their communities?
1. Farmers can set their own fair prices.
We are made to believe that food is cheaper at the grocery store, and it sometimes is. But what does this mean for the farmers who produced it? Are producers able to live off this pay, or is most of the money consumers spend at the grocery store going toward overhead, like paying truck drivers and maintaining buildings?
Are farmers able to pay their farm workers a liveable wage? Are they able to adopt sustainable farming methods to keep our waterways and food safe and to keep us healthier?
All of these questions are important in considering the price of a product. When you support small and mid-size local farmers, you may spend a little more money. But that money goes directly to supporting a family instead of to an industrialized agri-food company.
Consumers are also able to talk with farmers about their farming methods, building lasting relationships and increasing local identity and also helping determine what fresh, seasonal foods are available at the market.
2. Buying local helps shape future farming policy supporting small and mid-size farmers.
Currently, our food policy is shaped and supported by industrialized farms. Purchasing local food creates a shift in our communities. If local farmers are having issues with specific food policy, consumers can mobilize to create local food policy changes that benefit small and mid-size farmers. Then, consumers empower farmers to deliver what the consumers really want.
3. Purchasing from local farmers can increase efficiency and decrease waste--if the right policy is enacted.
Small farmers can sell more hard-to-sell items directly to consumers and avoid wasting them. This includes chicken feet, bones for broth, liver, etc. They can also offer niche items, like delicious but delicate heirloom varieties of vegetables that wouldn’t survive cross-country travel.
Buying local decreases food waste through the purchase of bulk items. Food left over at farmers markets can be repurposed as specialty items such as canned and baked goods. Any other leftover food can be recycled back into the local food system through livestock feed, compost, and/or bio-fuels.
Buying locally is good for you, but it's good for your community and your environment too!
Look for Bailey's warm spinach and carrot salad recipe (pictured below) on her Instagram page.