The term ‘local’ seems to be everywhere these days. From farmers markets to grocery stores, and even making appearances in chain restaurants. Even McDonald's had a “we buy local” campaign, with the fine print clarifying that “participation and duration may vary”. So it’s obvious that some people are cashing in on the “locally sourced” campaign, but there is also a bright side. Even this (potentially insincere) marketing brings awareness to the actual resurgence of local food systems, which supports local farmers, local economies, and the vitality of individuals in the community.
In search of better health, people often seek diets that are harsh on their bodies and unsustainable. If those diet-seekers became locavores, restricting their diet to within (approximately) 100 miles of where they live, they would automatically consume less processed foods, including sodas, fast-food, and high-fructose corn syrup. Along with adopting a healthier lifestyle, they would be benefiting their local community, cutting down on pollution, and most likely finding cheaper, more nutritious food.
Rijuice is blessed to be rooted in Lancaster, PA, a community with a rich tradition of farming and locally made foods. With some of the most fertile farming soil in the world, the fresh produce grown here is as nutrient dense and flavorful as it comes.
Some reasons to consider eating more locally:
Better nutrition. It turns out that there is significant to reason to eat local, especially because the sooner you eat fresh foods, the more nutritious they are. When produce is picked in Mexico or California, it is picked under ripe, which means that not all the nutrients are even able to form, making it less nutritious to begin with. After it is picked it also begins to immediately lose nutrients, and continues to until you consume it. The average carrot travels 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table, and in a study from Penn State University, spinach lost 47% of it’s nutrient content and important antioxidants over the course of four to eight days, depending on temperature of storage(1). The longer food takes to reach your plate, the less nutritious it is, and since food is priced in weight and not nutrients, you’re likely paying the same amount as local produce for less nutrition.
To really get the best deal when buying produce, organic (or chemical-free) produce has shown to have more antioxidants. In a ten-year study on tomatoes, organic tomatoes had 79% higher levels of quercetin(2), and 97% higher levels of kaempferol(3), both highly sought after antioxidants that have profound benefits on health, fighting heart disease, dementia, and cancer.
Tastes better. Fruit and vegetables are significantly different depending on their variety. Their appearance, taste, and nutrition (vitamin, mineral, antioxidants) can vary substantially. Industrial agriculture (for national and international distribution), both conventional and organic, chooses varieties for cultivation that will give them the biggest yield, grow the fastest, and store the best for long transportation. This comes at a cost: taste and nutrition. Local farmers can prioritize less commercial varieties, and are thus rewarded with better tasting, more nutritious food.
It’s cheaper. The USDA suggests that up to 10-50% of the cost of your produce comes directly from transportation costs, and the fluctuations in diesel prices significantly affects the price that you pay at the store(4). While it’s cheaper, you also decrease your food miles, miles that your food has traveled to your plate, which can dramatically minimize pollution over time.
Less chemicals. Farming methods that improve the soil quality of the land improve the nutrition of crops. Inversely, industrial farming methods that utilize synthetic chemicals destroy the health of the soil, which degrades the nutritional value of food. Organic, chemical-free, or even integrated pest management (IPM) methods of farming allow for healthier, deeper roots, which pull in nutrients from the surrounding soil. Different crops draw upon different nutrients in the soil, so having rich and diverse soil is crucial for farmers, for crops are only as healthy as the soil they’re grown in.
If you live in, or receive produce from, Lancaster County, you are fortunate to have food from some of the best farming soil in the world, which creates more nutritious food, and can lessen the need for irrigation and agricultural chemicals. Agriculture chemicals can also have negative effects on human and environmental health, particularly decreasing bee populations needed for crop pollination(5).
Builds community. Local farmers that try to wholesale their product to a grocery store receive low compensation, often close to the cost it took to produce their food. When a farmer sells directly to the consumer at a farmers market, they are able to cut out the middleman and transportation costs, which means they are financially able to raise a family, obtain and maintain an organic certification, reinvest in farm equipment, and experiment with growing different varieties of produce. At a farmers market, you can get to know your farmer and their farming methods. For example, maybe your farmer isn’t organic, but once you talk to them you find out that they’re chemical free, and simply can’t afford the organic certification yet. That chemical-free produce is probably superior to organic food from thousands of miles away in taste and nutrition every time. It’s important to talk to your farmer, they’re dedicating their time to produce food for the community, and by befriending them you gain insight into the time and effort it takes to turn a seed into food.
Investment in the future. By buying local food, you strengthen the local community and economy, including those less fortunate than yourself. When local farms are supported, it ensures that they will continue to produce food, which is important for the long term health of the community. With less than desirable varieties of food being grown, sprayed with pesticides, and transported across country, it is vital to build a network of farmers that can support the local population both in health, times of economic downturn (when shipping becomes expensive), and issues of food security (if monoculture crops are devastated by an insect or disease).
1) Penn State. "Storage Time And Temperature Effects Nutrients In Spinach." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 March 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/03/050323124809.htm>.
2) Boots AW, Haenen GR, Bast A. Health effects of quercetin: from antioxidant to nutraceutical. Eur J Pharmacol. 2008;582(2-3):325-37.
3) Calderón-Montaño JM, et al. A review on the dietary flavonoid kaempferol. Mini Rev Med Chem. 2011 Apr;11(4):298-344.
4) Volpe, Richard, Edward Roeger, and Ephraim Leibtag. How Transportation Costs Affect Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Prices, ERR-160, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, November 2013.
5) Chensheng Lu, et al. Sub-lethal exposure to neonicotinoids impaired honey bees winterization before proceeding to colony collapse disorder. Bulletin of Insectology 67 (1): 125-130, 2014 ISSN 1721-8861