The many benefits to buying and supporting locally grown foods

This opinion piece by Beverley Golden in The Toronto Star provides an overview of the importance of local food, and her experience with the Field to Table event in Georgina.

On a recent summer afternoon, I set out with several friends to explore a Field to Table event happening in Georgina, an area of York Region still rife with local farms.

It was a perfect way to take advantage of buying local produce and supporting farmers who are increasingly challenged by industrial large-scale growers.

Although the buy local food movement began in the 1970s, the trend has been on the rise for the last decade. For good reasons, too. Buying local has a myriad of benefits for human health and the health of the environment.

LOCALLY GROWN FOODS SUPPORT HUMAN HEALTH

Locally grown foods often retain more of their nutrients, as they’re allowed to ripen naturally, compared to fruits and vegetables that travel long distances and are picked before they’re ripe.

Unripe produce is treated with ethylene gas and irradiated to kill harmful bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, as well as prevent spoilage.

This increases shelf life before they cross the border, making locally grown produce safer than imported varieties.

Eating fruits and vegetables in season has long been considered healthier, as it is more in sync with the climate we live in.

This lets you find out how their products are farmed. Even non-organic small farm produce is safer, as they generally use fewer chemicals, if any.

ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS OF BUYING LOCAL

By buying locally, we speak with our dollars and our purchases benefit the environment.

Eating more local food reduces CO2 emissions by shortening the distance food travels from farm to consumer.

Local food preserves green space. When local farmers are paid fairly, they’re less likely to sell their land, a key reason we’ve been losing farms to developers here in Ontario.

With growing consumer demand for local food, it is exciting to see how many young people are eager to take up farming.

Many are turning empty lots or small leased plots into thriving urban gardens and using organic farming methods.

We learned from the owners of one farm we visited that they’re leasing one-acre plots to young farmers eager to learn about organic and sustainable agriculture.

There is a need for more initiatives like this to make sure Ontario stays the healthy produce haven for which it’s known.

MORE REASONS TO BUY LOCAL

Doesn’t fresh food always seem to taste better? It’s because food picked and eaten at the peak of freshness retains more nutrients.

I noticed that small, local farms offer more variety. Why? Because the industrial agricultural system uses a monocrop system.

Smaller farmers can grow a variety of heirloom and organic produce. By choosing locally produced food, you’re supporting your community and helping to keep local producers in business. This is important to maintain a consistent food supply in our changing world.

Local food creates community and connection. Loneliness has become a growing problem in our increasingly online and isolated world.

Getting to know your local growers and shopping or volunteering at a local farmers market, co-op, or community-supported agriculture (CSA), counterbalances this.

Full Article: thestar.com