Local food, as defined by the US Department of Agriculture, is “…the direct or intermediated marketing of food to consumers that is produced and distributed in a limited geographic area” (USDA). It is important to note that this definition can vary, and that guidelines on specific geographic boundaries differ based on state or region regulations. In relation to this article, local produce purchasing will refer to the attempt to purchase produce originating as close to the consumer’s home location as possible.
Why should anyone care about local produce?
We all know the produce we find in the store must be grown, but we may not all consider where it came from or how it got there. There’s not always an obvious need to think about those details when (for many Americans) finding produce is as simple as stopping by the grocery store and picking your preference. The ease and commonality of the process is less-than thought-provoking, but it must come from somewhere, right? The produce found in grocery stores must either be shipped, driven, or flown from where it was grown to wherever its consumption-fated destination may be. The distance between the two determines the unnecessary amount of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and hydrofluorocarbons that are released (EPA).
Some of the benefits that come from buying local produce include:
- Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
The less transportation required in the journey from farm to table, the lower the amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
- Stimulation of local economy
When consumers buy produce locally, it increases the likelihood that local farmers will be able to stay in business, especially if they are smaller and must compete against various larger farms from other areas.
- Increased consumer consciousness
Understanding how food is grown and where it comes from encourages consumers to feel more connected with what they eat and aware of the food choices they make.
- Fresher, more nutritious produce
Produce is the most nutritious directly after-harvest food that is not local is often harvested long before it reaches consumers, meaning that it is likely to be less nutrient-dense than local produce.
How can I find local food?
- Grow your own garden
There is no safer way for a someone to guarantee that their produce is local than by growing it themselves.
- Visit local farmer’s markets
Most cities have a farmer’s market where local farmers, growers, and crafters gather to sell their goods.
- Visit county fairs/get to know farmers in the area
Similarly to farmer’s markets, county fairs are also an easy way to find local farmers and have the opportunity to speak to them about their practices.
- Purchase produce that is in season
Different areas have different produce that is in season and available at different times, so learning what types of produce are supposed to be in season allows consumers another way to tell if they are buying locally.
How do I know what’s in season?
Due to the wide variety of foods that can be consistently found in grocery stores, it is difficult to know what’s supposed to be in season and what’s not. The good news is, there’s an app for that! (https://www.seasonalfoodguide.org/download-app) The Seasonal Food Guide app and website allows users to search by area, time of year, and type of produce, providing a results list of produce that is in season near them.
Have you ever thought about the environmental impact of one discarded water bottle?
A recent article from GreenPeace states that “12 million tons of plastic is entering our oceans every year”. That same article cites that “roughly 80% of litter in the seas comes from land”. That means the wind and waves are bringing our leftover containers and bags from the beach into our waterways.
The most noticeable impact of discarded bottles is pollution. The final destination for many these bottles is on the beach shore (ironically, where they probably began). Not only does this pollute our land and create an eyesore, but it is toxic to the many forms of wildlife that live in and around the water.
Recently, it was discovered by Chris Jordan that many Pacific Albatross die because of all of the plastic they ingest. To illustrate this, he photographed the remains of many of these birds. Chris found plastic containers and caps in nearly all of their stomachs. With no room for food to be processed, these birds died of starvation.
August 5-11, 2018 was the second annual American Wind Week, a week celebrating the United States leadership in creating this low cost and reliable form of energy.
I remember the first time I came across a wind farm. I was driving from one client site in Indianapolis to a second client in northwest Indiana. As many of you know, the Midwest is flat! You can literally see for miles and miles. However, the road I was traveling was “long and winding” and as I turned a corner the wind farm came into view. There’s something very majestic, awe inspiring, and a little futuristic the first time you see a wind farm. I quickly turned off the radio, unrolled my car windows and slowed down to see if I could hear the sleek blades cutting through the air. The quiet that filled my car was unexpected and amazing. How could so many wind turbines be so quiet? It’s an experience I will never forget.
According to the American Wind Energy Association U.S. wind farms are some of the most productive in the world and employ over 105,000 workers dedicated to bringing this clean, cost efficient energy source to homes and businesses throughout our country. And another fact near and dear to my heart, “using wind energy created $8 billion in public health savings during 2017 alone, by avoiding air pollution that creates smog and triggers asthma attacks.” So these wind farms are creating energy and improving population health! Sounds like a “win win” situation to me.
Seeing the wind farm also brought me back to my senior year in high school and my Spanish class project, telling the tale of Don Quixote and tilting at windmills….but that’s a different blog for another day.
To read more about the American Wind Energy Association and American Wind Week, click here.
Earth Overshoot Day is the date each year that humanity has exhausted more of nature’s resources than our earth can renew. This year the date was August 1, 2018, which is the earliest in history. This metric means that currently we are using resources equivalent to 1.7 earths. There are a number of ways that businesses and governments are working toward pushing this date back. Ultimately, however, much of the responsibility falls on us, the consumers. Here are seven things we can all do to help push this date back.