When you walk into your average grocery super-duper-mega-store you’re first confronted with a large selection of colorful produce…but if you take a close look at the stickers on those fruits and veggies you’ll see that the majority of them are grown in states (and often countries) hundreds or thousands of miles from your where you live. Most produce in the United States is picked as much as one week prior to being placed on supermarket shelves and they are shipped an average of 1300-1500 miles, and that’s just the produce grown in the US.
Considering the great distance most “fresh” produce is shipped, it should be no surprise that as fuel prices have skyrocketed, so too have the prices of your apples, oranges, and bananas…to name just a few. According to CNNMoney.com, the recent jump in food prices is the highest increase in nearly 20 years. Fruit and vegetable prices rose 2% in April alone and milk is 13.5% more expensive than it was this time last year.
In addition, the great cost to our environment in the form of massive carbon and methane emissions which result from industrial farming and agriculture is as much a consideration as the strain on the average American budget. According to The Independent Science Panel ( www.indsp.org ), industrial agriculture is responsible for 25% of the world’s carbon emissions, 60% of methane gas emissions, and 80% of nitrous oxide all elements which contribute to global warming. With fossil fuels coming closer and closer to “running dry”, industrial agriculture simply is not sustainable in it’s current form.
Small, local farms generally use less resources than the large industrial farms which grow the produce that go to the mega grocery store chains, local growers tend to use fewer or no pesticides, and often use organic growing methods. Far less fuel is used to transport local products to nearby farmer’s markets, and because farmer’s markets are usually outdoors they use less energy and resources to “power” than do the giant supermarkets. Finally, Buying locally helps to put money in the pockets of people who live in your community, and not in the pockets of wealthy corporations. Generally, less than 20 cents of each dollar goes to the growers of the produce you buy at the big chain supermarkets, where 80 to 90 cents of each dollar goes to the farmers who sell the fruits (and veggies) of their labor at your local farmer’s market.
So today we took a family trip to a local open-air farmer’s market at a nearby community college. We bought strawberries and a watermelon grown only 7 miles from our home, and my wife purchased natural lip balm made by a local artisan and we only spent about 10 dollars! I find that because local produce is often fresher at the time of purchase it tastes much better and lasts longer than the grocery store equivalent…and more cost effective. It was an enjoyable family outing and a rare opportunity to meet the people who grow and harvest the produce with their own hands. Another benefit of shopping locally is that the products are all fresh and healthy fruits, vegetables, homemade breads, natural products, etc…so you wont be inundated with the easy-to-prepare pre-packaged processed foods that are so prevalent in the American diet…instead you’ll be enticed by the smells, colors, and tastes of foods that we all know are good for us.
Not sure if there is a farmer’s market near you? Check out www.localharvest.org , where you can search by zip code to find one close to home! You may be surprised how many there are!