As the shopping cart’s wheels clunk along the tile, you pick up a tomato and place it in your shopping cart at the grocery store. You proceed to grab a few bell peppers, a cucumber and some onions. You are chatting away on your phone as you check out of the grocery store and go to your car. Within 20 minutes you are home chopping away, still chatting, preparing your meal.
Not once did you look down at the food in your hands. You didn’t examine where it came from, or think about the work it took to grow that tomato on your plate. The importance of where food comes from seems forgotten today. This is changing as more venues for locally produced food begin to sprout up across the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers’ markets in the U.S. has increased 54 percent between 2008 and 2011.
Local food is better for the body. The less time between picking the food and eating it, the more nutrients the food has. Most locally grown food also hasn’t been sprayed with tons of pesticides. Though it might not be certified organic, most local farmers take pride in protecting their plants naturally. Some local farm products even become certified naturally grown.
Eating locally grown food might seem like just a fad to some. The National Restaurant Association found that menus featuring locally produced foods are among the hottest trends this year, but the actual long-term health and economic benefits are invaluable.
Technology has made it possible for large farmers to grow the perfect produce, but the problem with this produce is that it is all the same. Genetic diversity is important; it allows for species to adapt and stay strong when attacked by disease. With genetically modified food, if one plant is attacked, the likelihood of the entire crop dying significantly increases. Local farms are also beneficial to the environment, providing naturally fertilized soil and habitats for a variety of animals.
In this era, one of the most important benefits is that local farming is better for local economies. When residents buy from a local farmer, they are supporting another local citizen and his family. The wholesale price farmers get for their produce often causes them to barely break even, which leads many farmers to pay their workers minimum wage or lower. By cutting out the corporate middleman, farmers are able to get a fair price for their food, provide the community with jobs and hold on to their farmland.
Next time you go into a food store, pick up those bananas you always buy and look at the label. Where are they from — South America? Stop and consider how far that banana has traveled, how many pesticides it has been spewed with and how little money the farmer who grew it actually received. Consider next time going out to your local farmers’ market and buying fresh food right from the hands of those who worked to put it on your table.
Chenaya Devine Milbourne is a junior integrated marketing communications major. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org