Why Eat Local? Finding Real Local Food

Screen shot 2009-10-14 at 7.26.25 AMPhoto by donkeycart
Originally published on May 21, 2008 under the title Enjoying Local Abundance. Revised and republished.

How spoiled we are when we truly look at the abundance God has provided us within our own communities! Why should I buy food that has traveled thousands of miles at times, when an abundance is available in my own vicinity simply through doing a little research. The more I reflect on enjoying and supporting local agriculture the more I realize that eating locally is the way to go!

1. Buying locally provides you with the freshest food and ingredients.

Local food is fresher and tastes better than food shipped long distances from other states or countries. Local farmers can offer produce varieties bred for taste and freshness rather than for shipping and long shelf life. The average food travels 1,300 miles from farm to table! That means it needs a lot of preservatives and added chemicals to make it last! Refining and processing allow these products to store for months. Supermarket food often travels seven to fourteen days before arriving in your local supermarket. By then, it lacks significant nutritional benefit, making it hardly worth the cost. Make your dollar count!

When trying to find local food that is free of pesticides (to get the most nutrition without the harmful chemicals), make sure to ask! Many local farmers cannot afford the cost to become certified organic, but they make every effort to keep eco-friendly practices. Simply ask them if they use sprays and how they raise their products, and you will know whether it is a quality food source or whether you should look elsewhere.

2. Buying locally is beneficial for the environment.

Local food doesn’t have to travel far. This reduces carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials. When you buy local food, you vote with your food dollar. This ensures that family farms in your community will continue to thrive and that healthy, flavorful, plentiful food will be available for future generations. This is another small way we can be good stewards of the world around us! You are also supporting local farmers and their efforts to provide quality products.

3. Buying locally is often cheaper when you buy in season.

Buying according to the what is in season is definitely cheaper! It doesn’t have to travel very far to your table and thus doesn’t have all those additional costs for transportation and perservation. From my experience, I have found that shopping at the farmers market or local farm stand is a very frugal option. From March-November, our farmer’s market is open, offering us quality produce for just around $15-20 per week, and we eat a lot of produce!

4. Buying locally is so much fun!

Getting to know farmers in the area is quite enjoyable! It is refreshing to know where your food is coming from, knowing how farmers go about producing their goods, and to get to knows them in the process is a great joy. The commercial food industry has fallen short (read more in my review of In Defense of Food), resorting to inhumane practices, harmful pesticides and preservation techniques, so it is growing more and more important to know where your food is coming from!

Even if you do spend more to buy locally, you can be assured that more often then not, the quality is superior, meaning you are getting more nutrition for your dollar.

Where to find local food?

Eat Well Guide -is an online directory of sustainably raised meat, poultry, dairy, and eggs. Enter your zip code to find healthful, humane, and ecofriendly products from farm, stores, and restaurants in your area. This guide includes listings for US & Canada. It is awesome!

Eat Wild -lists local suppliers for grass-fed meat and dairy products.

Local Harvest – helps you connect with local farmers, CSAs, and farmers’ markets.

Pick Your Own – find local farms with fruits and berries. Make sure to ask if they spray. You want to avoid those pesticides!

Check out restaurants in your area through Eat Wild (select your state, and then click on the right side bar “Beyond the Farm” for a full listing of restaurants) & Chef’s Collaborative.

Another recent find has been Edible Communities which is a network of excellent local magazines on local food. Edible Portland is for me!

What foods are in season?

Check out these fun resources: Epicurious offers a table that includes what is in season by state and then provides shopping guides and recipes for using those items. You can also find a seasonal guide at Sustainable Table.

How to find the best deals on local food?

Look outside the city. I have found I can get far better deals if I look to communities outside of the city. Just a few miles north of us can provide me with a significant discount of berries each summer. Or buying meat from Tillmook, a few hours drive south of us, provides us with $2 per pound grass-fed meat, versus the $4-5 per pound cost in town.

Find local farm stands. Local farm stands are one of the best providers for our seasonal produce. CSA’s are a great option, but they are usually significantly more expensive than buying at a farm stand or farmer’s market. Plus, you usually can get more for your money than through a CSA’s and still be supporting the local farmers.

Local Food Sources & Restaurants – NW Washington & Portland

If you live in close proximity to us, you are in luck! I have compiled a huge resource of local food sources, restaurants, CSAs & markets in the area. You can check it out at my Local Resources page.

Further Resources

Food Routesa national nonprofit dedicated to ‘reintroducing Americans to their food – the seeds it grows from, the farmers who produce it, and the routes that carry if from the fields to our tables.’
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver the story of one families journey to eat locally!
Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets by Deborah Madison
Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Food by Gary Paul Nabhan
Holy Cows And Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer’s Guide To Farm Friendly Food by Joel Salatin

Check out your packaging! Where are these items coming from?

Have fun exploring the bounty that surrounds you! Every little step is making progress! We started with CSA, then we began visiting our local farmer’s market, and now I am starting to check out my labels for other items! You would be surprised how far things can travel before getting to your table! While shopping at Costco, I found organic salsa produced in Eugene, OR which is just two hours south of us. I also found raisins grown and produced in Oregon as well. It’s surprising what you can find when you look a little closer!

Find more helpful resources at Real Food Wednesday.

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

24 Responses to Why Eat Local? Finding Real Local Food

  1. Ami October 22, 2009 at 7:09 am #

    I have just started reading your blog, and it is so encouraging. Transitioning to a healthier lifestyle is so intimidating but I am so encouraged by how you educate us homemakers.

    I have had so much fun at our Farmer’s Market and I’ve been so pleased to take to the farmers. They just LOVE to talk about their produce, dairy, and meat! They are a happy bunch on market day! One concern I have is that gardening has become so popular here in Kentucky that the farmer’s are really noticing a drop in demand. Even though I have a garden, they have things I don’t have, like eggs and honey.

    I’ve also been surprised at the local abundance. My honey comes from less than 10 miles from my home, and many farmers bring eggs and meat to the market! Soon I’ll be buying some beef from my Pappaw, about 100 miles away, for about $1.70/lb. It’s surprising that healthier food is often not really more expensive.

    Thanks for your hard work on this blog, I hope to begin implementing more of what you’re demonstrating! Have a blessed day!

  2. Kelly the Kitchen Kop October 18, 2009 at 8:37 pm #

    Lindsay, I’ve been wanting to tell you that I read your blog all the time but just don’t always have time to comment! I’m stumbling this post now, and thanks for joining in on Real Food Wednesday!

    Saralyn, that same thing drives me crazy at our farm market. Non-local should NOT be allowed!

    Kelly

  3. Saralyn October 16, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    One more thing–farmers’ markets are getting sneaky. Only one in our area requires its vendors to be the growers/producers of their items. Many other markets have vendors who simply buy wholesale organic produce and such from who-knows-where and resell it at higher prices. In other words, locally purchased is not always locally grown, even if it comes from an earthy looking gal in overalls!

  4. Rachel October 16, 2009 at 10:48 am #

    I definately agree. I live in a small farming community, but the farmers here almost always take their produce to big city farmers markets where they can get better prices for it. And a lot of the markets have just as many booths selling non-produce items as the ones that do. Sometimes I wonder if I’m at a craft fair.

  5. Joyce October 16, 2009 at 7:41 am #

    I’m always envious of people who have access to affordable farmers markets. I live in a large city with two fairly large farmers markets, but they are very pricey. It’s all very boutique-y. And don’t even get me started on the grass fed beef. It’s about $8 a pound just for hamburger and if I drive direct to farms an hour and a half outside the city the prices are no better. Affordable farmers markets seem to be a very regional perk.

  6. Maggy October 15, 2009 at 9:56 pm #

    Thank you for the links. Here in San Diego, local food is not as popular as it should be. So now I’ll have an easier time of sourcing it. And with a toddler who thinks that her mission in life is to be in CONSTANT MOTION, making my life easier makes me a happy Mama.

    My husband just looked over my shoulder to read what I’m reading (I hate that and thus I shall have to tickle him mercilessly) and said that a happy Mama make him a happy husband. So thanks from both of us I guess.

  7. alexis October 15, 2009 at 12:54 pm #

    Thanks for an informative post! I had never heard of the Eat Well Guide. That turned out to be pretty useful for me! Unfortunately, we don’t have many sources of pastured beef, chicken or pork here in southern Indiana. However, we do have a very large Amish community about 30 min. from my town, so I think I am going to try to find a source through them. They raise all their crops and livestock very naturally, with no pesticides, hormones, purely grass-fed, etc… Hopefully this tip will help other readers as well.

  8. Fruitfulvine2 October 15, 2009 at 3:46 am #

    Since we moved back home to Dominica I’ve been eating more and more local food and less and less packaged foods. The taste experience is out of this world and the knowledge that I’m feeding my family the healthier way adds to the pleasure.

  9. Alaina October 14, 2009 at 8:04 pm #

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    I find this discussion fascinating. I totally agree about local food and that is my strong desire for myself and our family. However, we live in Alaska, where there is virtually no way to get lots of local produce. We can get tons of wild fish for virtually free (think salmon, salmon, salmon) and wild berries, but produce is another story. It presents many problems, including locally grown foods being extremely expensive and typically not raised organically because the pesticides are about all that makes things grow. Rather disturbing.

    We have found that having a CSA shipped up from Washington is our best option. It is cheaper than the produce here, we get a box overflowing with produce. We do pay a fair amount, but it is worth it because we would pay more for bad produce here. Since everything has to be shipped to Alaska, although I hate the petroleum costs, this CSA is still a better option for the environment.

    Also, I have not found that CSAs are more expensive than buying local at farmer’s markets. It must be the areas I have lived. When we lived in Chicago, a CSA was almost 1/2 the price of buying the same stuff at the farmer’s markets. I encourage people to do lots of research in their area for what will be most cost effective and also great for the world that God created.

    • Lindsay October 15, 2009 at 3:26 pm #

      This really got me thinking…It begs the question to me…what did traditional societies eat there? You are not the first to mention you can’t find local food. I found Dr. Weston A Price’s research of various cultures around the world very fascinating. He discovered that no matter what they ate, they ate what was available to them and they were healthy. IF they lived by the sea, it was mainly seafood, and other products, and very few to any produce, but they were healthy because they did not consume the packaged/processed food of our Western culture. It wasn’t about a certain number of vegetables, fruits, protein, etc. as in our current diet recommendations. They ate what was available in their area. I think for many to eat locally, it is going to have to rethinking our traditional diet recommendations.

      Also, I wonder if there was more demand for local products, as in most things, the prices would go down?

      Just my thoughts…

      • Alaina October 15, 2009 at 6:23 pm #

        I totally agree. The native people here in Alaska grew up eating whale (which only they are allowed to hunt now, with extinction of belugas on the horizon), berries, and fish in a variety of ways. It is a total adjustment for my husband and I (we just moved 3 months ago) and we’re still figuring it out. This is a very high meat culture, and we really don’t like a lot of meat. But in some of the villages here the berries have more vitamin C than oranges. So God truly has provided, it is just a high learning curve for us because we LOVE our veggies!

  10. Emily October 14, 2009 at 7:37 pm #

    I wonder if I’m just living in the wrong area – eating “local” for me isn’t really all that local (the farmers at my farmers market are traveling hours to get there) and the prices are steep. We tried the farmer’s market approach this summer, buying foods in season, and we spent over twice what I normally spend on the same amount of produce on sale at Sprouts.

    I’ve also looked into CSAs and co-ops (there are none in my area). Is this just a problem because I live in North Orange County, or do other people run into this, too?

    • Colleen October 15, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

      I live in the mountains of Wyoming. With about 28 consecutive frost free days this summer, locally grown food is not really an option either. Our farmer’s market is mostly trucked in from northern Idaho and OR, WA… the prices are also more than double the grocery store (I paid 11 $ for a 1 lb bag of cherries this summer.) We are blessed with a greenhouse, but as the ground freezes, even that isn’t perfect. I do have tomatoes and cucumbers and a few tiny onions – and yellow squash. I love the idea… but I share the thoughts others have expressed. In certain areas of the country, living simply can’t mean eating locally. :( And yet, I wouldn’t trade the beauty of where we live!

      • Lindsay October 15, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

        Be encouraged to do what you can! You may not have the abundance of some part of the country, but you do have food and that is much to be thankful for! Cherries are not cheap here either even when they grow here. Some products you just have to avoid because of the high cost when trying to eat naturally on a budget.

  11. Lisa October 14, 2009 at 7:18 pm #

    I really appreciate this post! Thank you so much for the sources!

  12. Saralyn October 14, 2009 at 2:25 pm #

    We share your passion for local food and the reasons for it but have found it extremely expensive where we live. We purchased a CSA membership this summer that seemed very reasonable until we saw the tiny bit of produce we received each week–1 carrot, a handful of pea pods, a beet, and an onion is not veggies for 4 people! Buying produce at our farmers’ market was no better. One green pepper sells for $3. Yikes. The best way we’ve found to eat local produce? Grow it yourself.

  13. God's Dancing Child October 14, 2009 at 11:46 am #

    I LOVE your blog. I am very thankful that a new friend from the The Old Schoolhouse Crew mentions you (glowingly) often!!!

    I clicked on the link to PickYourOwn, and it wouldn’t let me go anywhere… did you mean pickyourown.org ?

  14. Jennifer October 14, 2009 at 10:19 am #

    Lindsay,

    Thank you so much for posting these resources! I can’t wait to explore the links!

    Question: Do you have any tips on keeping fresh produce and more organic foods preserved longer? I work full-time right now (no kids yet!) and I can can only go out shopping about every other week. I really try and eat healthily and my husband and I eat a lot of produce, but without a lot of preservatives I’ve found that food (especially produce) goes bad so quickly and I end up throwing good money away… plus I run out before I head to the store again! Do you have any advice? Thanks! :-)

    • Lindsay October 14, 2009 at 10:51 am #

      Have you checked out the Green Bags? These have worked great for me! Keep in mind that your organic produce will loose nutrition as it sits as well. If you cannot use it in time, it is best to freeze it. Green Bags are available at Bed Bath & Beyond and many health food stores.

  15. julie October 14, 2009 at 8:29 am #

    Under the “better for the environment” you can add: saves petroleum. This was a thought that I’d never had before reading Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable Miracle. She talks about the petroleum used to ship bananas from S. America, or, organic tomatoes from the west coast – when you can find them at a farmer’s market on the east coast. She talked (briefly) how the government underwrites the costs of shipping. So basically, my taxes are paying for food to be shipped from California to compete with local food on the east coast.

  16. Deborah October 14, 2009 at 8:19 am #

    Lindsay thank you thank you. What amazing timing you have. I am reading Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver now.
    I am so blessed I live in a fertile and rich area of the country. Thank you for the links and all your research.
    I love the Simply In Season World Community cookbook! The recipes are delicious!!I have eaten almost every summer recipe. I got it this summer so I have to make my way through the seasons and recipes.
    This may sound silly but for the first time ever I can identify just about every vegetable and when it is in season. It has happened more times than I can count, but I will be checking out at the grocery store and the clerk as no idea what my leeks are! LOL.

  17. Kim Kauffman October 14, 2009 at 8:01 am #

    Can I ask where you purchase your beef in Tillamook? We live in Salem and I’ve been trying to find a reasonably priced place for grass fed beef.

    Thank you!!

  18. Chelsea October 14, 2009 at 7:36 am #

    Hello! I am a new blog reader and am very thankful for all the resources you’ve compiled. I started on the whole foods journey after reading In Defense of Food three months ago – our life and diet has changed so much! Anyway, I was wondering if you’d be willing to share where in Tillamook you find grass fed meat for $2/lb? We live in Portland and would definitely make the trip for that! Thanks! :)