The popularity of organic foods and stores that cater to customers who prefer such foods continues to grow, and that growth has contributed to a growing awareness among shoppers of where the food they eat comes from. Many consumers now recognize the impact that food production has on the environment, and that recognition has spurred interest in locally grown foods.
Locally grown foods are those that are grown within your community or a community nearby. Such foods do not need to be shipped hundreds of miles before they ultimately find their way onto your plate, and many people find that contributes to meals that are more fresh than meals made up of foods shipped from afar. But freshness is not the only benefit to purchasing locally grown foods, which pay various dividends for people and the planet.
• Locally grown foods benefit the environment. The phrase "field to plate" is significant to consumers who prefer locally grown foods. That phrase refers to the distance food travels from the grower to the plate on your dinner table. Estimates vary depending on the source, but advocates of locally grown food suggest that it reduces the field to plate distance by an average of 1,300 miles. That's a significant feather in locally grown foods' cap, as the Council on the Environment of New York City notes that it takes 435 fossil-fuel calories to fly a single five calorie strawberry from California to New York. Buying locally preserves that energy that is used to transport foods from afar.
• Locally grown foods fuel your local economy. In addition to benefitting the environment, locally grown foods stimulate your local economy. Local, independent farmers have largely fallen by the wayside in the 21st century, as industrial agribusinesses have taken over the produce sections in grocery stores across the country. But local, independent farmers are making a comeback, thanks in large part to consumer demand for organic foods. Supporting such farmers who grow their foods locally means you're putting money back into your own community, a worthwhile effort at a time when so many small communities are struggling economically.
• Buying locally grown foods contributes to biodiversity. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, more than 75 percent of agricultural genetic diversity was lost in the 20th century. That's thanks in large part to industrial agribusinesses that cultivate fruits and vegetables that are bred for fast maturation. But small, local farms typically grow a wider variety of fruits and vegetables in an effort to extend their growing seasons. That means consumers of locally grown foods have access to more fruits and vegetables, and therefore more flavor.
• Buying locally maintains beautiful landscapes. Farmland has been on the decline for decades, as cement and asphalt have made millions of acres of once beautiful farmland disappear. Buying locally helps to maintain the green space your community and surrounding communities have left. That makes for great road trips and even helps to sustain local wildlife populations.
• Locally grown foods can be more nutritious. Fruits and vegetables can rapidly lose nutrients once they are harvested. That's problematic when buying such foods from industrial agribusinesses that need substantial time to get their products from the farm to the shelves at your local grocery chain. But buying from local farmers increases the likelihood that the fruits and vegetables you purchase were just picked and therefore have yet to lose a significant amount of nutrients.
Locally grown foods are growing in popularity, and that popularity can be traced to the freshness of such foods as well as the numerous additional benefits that locally grown foods provide.