shopping local: a way to support your health, your community, and sustainable agriculture
Supporting local farms and businesses is one of my favorite ways to engage in conscious consumption - of food, and of the materials that it takes to transport, sell, and produce food. There are many benefits to prioritizing your local farmers, and it allows a deeper practice of sustainability and conscious consumption.
“Consuming local” has a loose definition. Some chain grocery stores claim that they only supply local produce, but consider local to be the entire state. My preference in definition is anything grown or produced within 100 miles. This definition allows us a way to measure the environmental impact of the resources that are used when transporting food from where it’s grown, where it’s stored, and, ultimately, when it ends up in a grocery store or market before you’re able to buy it. Measuring this impact through the food transportation chain is known as “food miles.”
When considering food miles, you track all of the parts of the process of how it got to you, at the grocery store you are shopping at: where the produce was grown to where it was distributed, from it's distribution to the grocery store, from the grocery store to your home.
Buying local means that you’re lessening the food miles associated with what you’re buying, which has a positive impact for the environment. This is something that we don’t really think about when at the grocery store, but can have a huge effect once we start looking at it. For example, I tracked the food miles from carrots that I bought from the grocery store, considered to be local (grown within the same state). These carrots came from a farm in Bakersfield, CA, where they made their way to a distribution center in Sacramento, CA (301 miles). From Sacramento, they traveled to me in San Diego, CA (512 miles), and then they traveled 2 miles home with me, coming in for a total of 815 food miles for a four-pound bag of carrots. Compare this to carrots from my local farmers market, which traveled less than 50 miles to get from the farm to me directly.
By supporting local, you put money back into your local economy and support the lives and products of those in your immediate community. If you consider that your money is being used to support someone[s] no matter where you spent it, wouldn’t you want to spend it, as often as you can, somewhere that has a direct relation to your world around you? To people that live within and serve your community? We can be this intentional with our money through supporting local farms, restaurants, and businesses. Another awesome benefit of supporting local farms is that you’re able to consume food that is more fresh, ripened naturally, and seasonal – meaning, it is what the Earth has intended for humans to eat during this season.
If taking part in sustainable practices is a value of yours, how can you prioritize shopping and supporting locally? What steps can you take to intentionally support those around you and reduce environmental impact through the purchases you’re making?
Utilize the farmers markets around you; subscribe to a CSA (community sponsored agriculture) box; visit a local farm stand; find local brands at your grocery store.