Tag Archives: local food

How Much Does Buying Local Food Really Matter?

I came across an article in the New York Times over the weekend about the real costs of food transportation. The overall point is that eating local foods may not be making as much of an impact as you think, because transporting it from one state to another can be more efficient in terms of energy use than growing it locally, especially if a heated greenhouse is needed to grow it.

The article makes some very good points, such as the fact that the energy to grow the produce is a bigger part of the energy cost than transporting it to the store. The energy cost from the store to your home is also usually one of the bigger costs – depending on where you live in relation to the store and how you get there, of course.

Then there’s refrigeration and preparation. Having food and preparing it to eat can add quite a bit to the energy used in dealing with that food.

I can’t say all of it works for me. The argument about the greenhouse simply points up that you should eat foods in season. Produce in season won’t need a greenhouse. There’s energy saved right there.

I’ll grant that cutting back on food miles is only a small impact. The size of the impact isn’t the point. It’s decreasing the environmental impact of your food in the ways available to you. That it’s small doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it.

The article says that transportation is about 14% of the energy used in the American food system. Why shouldn’t we try to decrease that number? It’s one of the areas where a decrease is possible.

Fortunately, the article does admit that there are some benefits to eating locally. Not very specifically, but at least the author isn’t entirely against it and just wants people to really think before they eat local. That’s a good thing.

Organic Foods on the Cheap – Money Saving Mondays

The problem many people have with buying organic food is the cost. It’s often significantly more expensive than conventionally grown produce. That’s rough when you’re on a tight budget.

But there are several ways to get organic food for less.

My own favorite way is to grow a garden. There’s some initial investment and a lot of time spent, but you will generally get back more than you put in. It’s likely to cost you less than what the conventionally grown produce would have cost you at the grocery store.

Although you do run the risk of failure if it’s just a bad year.

There are other ways to get organic food for less. These are a few.

1. Check the farmer’s market.

Some farmer’s markets have better prices than others, but you will probably find a good selection of organic produce there. If not organic, it’s probably locally grown, and that’s not a bad choice either.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a discount if you’re buying slightly damaged produce, and check out some of the less familiar foods. You can find some really interesting foods at farmer’s markets.

You’ll need to know what the prices are at your stores for organic produce to know what you’re saving at a farmer’s market.

2. Join a CSA

This one’s kind of tough, as the investment is upfront. However, if you check out this study done at the University of Massachusetts, you can see that you may be getting significantly more for your money with a CSA. No guarantees, of course, as anyone can have a bad year, but I wouldn’t expect that to be a regular problem.

If you have trouble with the cost or quantity of food, try splitting a share with a friend.

3. Buy in season.

Produce always costs less when it’s in season. If you have the space, the time and the inclination, you can freeze or can any excess you buy for later use.

This is One Reason Why Eating Local & in Season Matters

I came across this really depressing but informative article on Gourmet.com about the use of slaves to harvest tomatoes. Pretty much if you eat tomatoes out of season, you’re eating food that was picked by people who are effectively slaves.

The article was published in March, but I only came across it recently while using Stumble Upon. Amazing the things I find there.

Pickers are lucky to pick a ton of tomatoes on a particular day, for which they would earn about $50. However, they have to be available even when there isn’t work, and they are generally charged outrageous rents for extremely poor housing.

They can even be beaten for being too sick to work.

Your choices matter. Pay attention to where you shop. The Campaign for Fair Food has gotten some companies to agree to give pickers a pay raise, although many farmers are refusing to cooperate or be a conduit for the raise.

At this point, Whole Foods is the only grocery chain signed on to not buy from growers who exploit workers so badly.

Almost as bad as the treatment so many workers labor under, are the people in the comments who feel they deserve such treatment for being in the United States illegally.

Yes, it’s hard to think of paying more for your food. But if you think of the people involved in the entire process of getting food to your table it might be worth it.

Where to Find Local Food Resources

I’ve talked a bit lately about my garden. I love being able to grow my own food. In fact, my husband came home the other day with an early Mother’s Day gift for me – more plants for the garden. I liked it.

I know, of course, that gardening isn’t for everyone. So today I wanted to get into local food sources. If you can’t garden, if you don’t want to, if your garden fails, whatever the reason, buying local is a great option.

Farmer’s markets are often an easy choice. There may be several in your area. The USDA has a page all about farmer’s markets, and it may be a place for you to start searching if you haven’t spotted them already on your own. But it definitely doesn’t have all of them listed. I searched for a farmer’s market I know of in my area, one that has been going on for years, and it wasn’t listed.

Local Harvest is another great resource. Once again, they didn’t have my local farmer’s market listed, but it did show another that I know of nearby.

Local Harvest can also help you to find a CSA to join in your area. Community Supported Agriculture groups are a great option if you don’t mind prepaying and not knowing what exactly you’re going to get. I haven’t tried one yet myself, but every time I read about someone who has, the selection impresses me.

The Eat Well Guide offers similar resources.

If you want to learn more about sustainable eating, I suggest checking out the Sustainable Table website. It has some great tips that will help you understand why you want to avoid conventionally farmed foods when you can.