Green Tips: Eating Locally
Green Tips | April 26, 2019
Local farms grow fresh and highly nutritious foods compared to foods found in the supermarket. Crops are harvested at their peak of flavor and ripeness and since less time elapses from harvesting to eating, they retain more nutrition. Also, buying locally supports smaller farmers in your region, helping to develop strong local economies. Many local farms use more sustainable practices, like avoiding genetically modifications or harmful pesticides. Meat and dairy also tend to be free-range or free of antibiotics and added hormones.
We know choosing food can be overwhelming, so we’ve put together tips for how you can start eating locally:
1) Shop at local farmers markets:
Visit your local farmers market to support your local economy and stock your home with fresh produce. By shopping local, you can reduce your carbon footprint because food is not shipped from distant regions. Shopping locally doesn’t mean breaking the bank. Farmers markets generally have competitive prices since they sell directly to consumers, cutting out the “middleman.” Find your local farmers markets on the Farmers Market section of LocalHarvest.org. You can also find registered farmers markets in your area on the USDA Local Food Directories.
2) Join a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program:
CSAs create investment in farms near you. They provide farmers with upfront funding, allowing them to spend more time in the field, rather than trying to make enough sales at farmers’ markets. You can join your local CSA by purchasing a “share” and each week you will receive or pick up a box of seasonal and locally grown produce. Many farmers also provide CSA members with a list of expected produce and recipes on how to cook or prepare meals. Joining a CSA is good for the environment because local family farms are more likely to adopt sustainable agriculture practices, compared to industrial agriculture that typically focus more on quantity than quality. Find a CSA near you on the CSA section of LocalHarvest.org.
3) Visit a local farm or U-pick:
Many farms that participate in farmers markets also have options for you to pick your own produce on-site. These farms are sometimes referred to as U-pick farms. Since farmers do not have to travel to markets to sell you their products, you may find that picking your own food at a local farm comes with reduced prices. Picking your own food is a great learning opportunity for kids about where food comes from and the importance of how it is grown. Find your local U-pick farm here or visit the Farms section of LocalHarvest.org.
4) Shop seasonally and read labels:
Another simple way to eat locally is to learn what foods are in season at your supermarket. This can help you decide what foods to avoid at your grocery store that have been shipped from other regions or countries. Start reading labels on your food to learn where it is being sourced. Ensuring seasonal and local products reduces harmful carbon emissions from food miles, or the distance food travels from where it is grown to where it is purchased.
The freezer is your friend! If you’re missing your favorite summer fruits in winter, learn how to freeze fruits and vegetables.
5) Find restaurants that source food locally:
Farm to table restaurants, or restaurants that source food from local farmers, are a great way to eat out while making conscious decisions about the environment. Farm to table restaurants usually change their menus based on what foods are in season and fresh. If a restaurant does not advertise a locally grown mission or provide information on their menu, ask your server for more information. Supporting farm to table restaurants assures that your food is local and is not creating an unnecessary carbon footprint. Whether at home or traveling, find restaurants that source food locally with this site that searches for sustainable food based on your zip code. You can also use the Local Eats app and check farm-to-table as a requirement.
6) Grow your own food in a garden:
If you want to eat as locally as possible, consider growing your own food! While starting your own fruit or vegetable garden may seem daunting, it is actually fairly easy to start a small garden that can generate a significant amount of food. Starting your own garden allows you to control pesticide use, customize fertilizer and soil, and eliminate packaging and carbon emissions typically linked with buying produce.
A good way to get started is to visit your local garden center to talk with an expert about your space and goals. For apartment dwellers lacking space, try vertical gardening and choose products that can grow in pots. Even herbs can easily survive on a window sill. Check out this list of the ten best garden crops for beginners.< Back to Citizen’s Toolkit
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