By Andrea Couture, MS
Farmer’s Markets and eating locally have become increasingly popular topics over the past few years. You may have noticed signs in your neighborhood for a local farmers market or have seen your coworkers getting a community supported agriculture (CSA) box delivered to the office. So what is all the fuss about?
Purchasing produce locally from a farmer’s market or a CSA site has many benefits.
Freshness:Produce from the supermarket is a healthy option, but it may not be as fresh as local produce. This is because local produce has less transit time and does not have to be shipped long distances. It is most likely sold to you within two days of being picked whereas produce from the supermarket may be sitting for days to weeks before you purchase it.
Higher Nutrients: Local produce is typically picked at the peak of nutritional quality. Produce that is shipped long distances is picked before ripeness, therefore the flavor and nutrients are not fully developed yet. Once produce is picked they start to slowly lose nutrients. This does not mean that produce traveled far distances is not beneficial for us, it just means that local produce provides more of its nutrients and will have enhanced flavor.
Meeting the Farmer: When you purchase your produce at a local farmers market you have the opportunity to talk with the person that grows the fruits and vegetables. You can find out where your produce comes from, the techniques they use to grow the produce, if they practice organic farming and any other interesting tidbits!
Seasonal Produce: By eating locally grown produce, you are eating fruits and vegetables in their natural growing season for your area of the United States. Produce is more abundant in its natural growing season and it is usually cheaper. This may also contribute to getting a variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet.
Supporting your Local Economy: Purchasing local produce helps support your local farmers and your local economy. This can keep more money in the communities around you and provide more jobs for the community.
Environmentally Friendly: Small farms produce less waste from pesticides and other chemicals in the form of carbon monoxide than bigger farming corporations. Keeping produce and dairy refrigerated across hundreds of miles gives of pollutants that are 12,000 times more carbon-intensive than CO2.
Remember, eating seasonally is a healthy option, but it is not the only option. As mentioned above there are several benefits to eating local produce but do not skip out on your favorite vegetable just because it is not in season! Try to find a balance that fits into your lifestyle.