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Want to know what’s for dinner? Look no further than your garden.
If you didn’t plant a garden this year, no worries, your local farmers market or farm can provide you with everything you need to eat local & in season.
When you eat locally and in season, it takes all the guess work out of meal planning.
Top 5 Reasons Why You Need to Eat Local & In Season-
Let The Garden Plan Your Menu
Ever bought a tomato from the grocery store and it didn’t even smell or taste like a tomato?
How about a cucumber that just tasted like water?
I recall when my (then 4 yr old) daughter was eating a cucumber from the store and said “what is this?” I replied “it’s a cucumber”.
She looked at me, squished her nose and sharply claimed “no it’s not!”.
Eating In Season & Locally- What Does That Mean?
Have you heard the term Localvore or Locavore ?
It’s a relatively new term given to someone who eats only locally grown foods.
Some other terms or slogans you may be familiar with are:
- Farm to Table
- Slow Grown
- Slow Food Movement
- Sustainably Grown
- Sustainably Harvested
- Eat Local
- Keep Calm and Eat Local
- Eating Locally Thinking Globally
One common definition to eating locally means eating foods that have been grown within 100 miles of your location.
When I worked the Farmers Markets, one of the requirements was our farm had to be within 100 miles of the market location.
When grocery store chains advertise ‘local food’, that can mean anywhere in their state or surrounding states.
For instance, I live in South Carolina. The chain stores here that advertise ‘local’ means the food can be sourced from: South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia or Florida.
Not exactly what I would call ‘local’.
#1 Reason to Eat Local & In Season- Support The Local Economy
When you or I eat local, we are putting money back into our community, our home.
By buying locally grown food, we are also forming a bond with the farmer and building our community.
Farmers are the backbone of our country, without them- what do we have?
With more and more products being imported every year, it is our responsibility to support as many local businesses that we can.
In 2015 alone, the United States imported over 80 Billion Dollars in agricultural products.
Over 44 percent of U.S. agricultural imports are horticultural products: fruits, vegetables, tree nuts, wine, essential oils, nursery stock, cut flowers, and hops. Sugar and tropical products such as coffee, cocoa, and rubber comprised just over 20 percent of agricultural imports in 2015. Imports of vegetable oils, processed grain products, red meat, and dairy products have grown significantly in recent years.
According to the USDA Census Report, over 75% of the farms in the United States made less than $50,000.00 per year!
What do you think would happen to the local farms if we placed some of that 80 Billion Dollars we import from other countries into their pockets?
#2 Reason to Eat Local & In Season- Fresher and Healthier
I always thought I was doing good by increasing the vegetables my family ate. I had no idea that the produce I was buying at my local store didn’t have the same nutrients as food I could buy locally.
Not all spinach is created equal.
Did you know that produce starts to lose it’s nutrient contents from the moment it’s picked?
Once produce is plucked from the vine, the nutritional value starts to decline- the clock starts a ticking. Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock.
The Chicago Tribune posted an article stating that most produce loses 30 percent of nutrients three days after harvest.
How Does Produce Lose Nutrients
Let me explain a little bit about the process.
Once food is picked, it continues to breathe (respiration).
During respiration, it breaks down fats, proteins and other organic materials which causes them to lose flavor and nutrients.
Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Foods bought locally are generally harvested that morning or the day before.
When I would sell at markets, I would go out at the crack of dawn to harvest produce for market.
I was very proud of my produce, each and every piece had love grown into it.
I fed anything that was over a couple of days old to my chickens, processed it for our consumption or it went in the compost.
Produce sold in grocery stores has been picked green or un-ripened, packaged, and shipped by planes, trains, boats, and trucks.
Then it is sent to a distribution center, where it is unpacked and picked up by truck to deliver to the store.
The produce you buy in a grocery store can be anywhere from a couple of weeks old up to a year.
#3 Reason to Eat Local & In Season- Better For The Environment
The world is a different place then it was a decade ago.
People are waking up to the environmental hazards and the consequences of our actions.
We want to protect our land, we want to conserve and live in harmony with nature instead of destroying it.
When you buy produce at a store vs from the farmer, it takes massive resources to bring it here.
Imported Organically Grown VS Local Conventionally Grown
I eat and garden organically- most of the time.
I always grow organically, in it’s truest sense. However, I don’t always eat organically.
If it came down to buying produce that is organic but it came from Spain vs buying locally that was grown conventionally (sprayed with chemicals), I will buy locally.
Why? Believe it or not, organic farmers use chemicals, lots of chemicals.
Organic farmers actually have a spraying protocol that they follow. The same as conventional growers, they just use chemicals that have been approved by the USDA.
Then the produce is picked green, packaged and transported thousands of miles to reach our plates.
Conventionally grown produce has been sprayed minimally (compared to imported produce) and generally, local farmers only spray when necessary.
In addition, they pick their produce when ripe (optimal nutritional value) off the vine and sell directly to you.
If you want to read more about how old the produce is in stores, you can click here to continue reading.
#4 Reason to Eat Local & In Season- Taste Better
Do we really need any other reason? Local food just tastes better.
So the shorter the time between the farm and your table, the less likely it is that nutrients and flavor, will be lost from fresh food.
#5 Reason to Eat Local & In Season- Menu Planning
Since meal planning can be a daunting task for parents, eating seasonally just make sense.
Always trying to figure out what the family wants to eat, what’s on sale and balancing our budget, it’s a big ol pain in the rear.
When you plan your menu by what’s in season, you remove all the guess work about what to cook.
So check the local farmers market or go to your state USDA website or Extension office and see what produce is available in your area.
I have a laminated chart with what (should be) is available locally during every month of the year.
This is a great asset for me in my meal-planning. I can look at the chart and start my search for recipes with those ingredients.
And finally, eat local, support your farmer- or better yet, grow your own and enjoy the bounty from the land.
If you would like some tips on how to save money on fresh produce, read my article 10 Easy Ways To Save Money On Produce- Even Organic!