Why Buy Local Food?

— Written By Kellyn Montgomery

Local food is quite a buzz phrase nowadays. There are good reasons behind the popularity of this movement. The reasons are so good, in fact, that Catawba County has made supporting local foods a priority and has created a position within Cooperative Extension to work on making local food more accessible. I started as the Local Foods Extension Agent in October and will be working on everything from developing local markets for farmers to sell their products to supporting backyard and community gardeners to grow their own food. The Local Foods program will also focus on helping consumers buy and cook with fresh, local fruits and vegetables. As compiled by Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, here are some of the good reasons that explain why local foods are such a priority and why you should consider buying local whenever possible.

  • Local foods are usually fresher and more nutritious. Since a shorter distance is traveled to where the food is sold, most local fruits, vegetables, and dairy products are fresher. Some are harvested within 24 hours of being purchased! This freshness is directly related to its nutritional value, as nutritional quality degrades rapidly after harvest.
  • Buying food grown by someone in the local community means your money will stay in the local community. Money that stays here circulates and benefits all sectors of the local economy and therefore increases the quality of life we enjoy in our community.
  • Buying from local farmers helps to preserve farmland and rural culture. Whether it is direct at a farmers market or at the local foods section of a grocery store, buying a local farmer’s product helps keep that farmer farming and in business. Many of the farmers in our communities are our neighbors, friends, and family. By supporting their businesses, their farms will be sustained and passed on to the next generation of farmers.
  • Food produced and marketed locally uses much less energy for transportation and storage. Reducing the energy used means less air and water pollution, which is another way we can help sustain our resources for future generations.
  • A local food system that supplies nutritious food directly to our county results in a more self-sufficient community. This means less reliance on the intricate systems required to bring in food that is produced far away.
  • When food is marketed locally, farmers aren’t limited to growing varieties that are bred for long distance shipping and long shelf lives. Local foods are often heirloom varieties that have been passed down through generations, which are usually especially delicious!
  • Finally, since local food is not stored for long periods of time or transported long distances, fewer post-harvest treatments are needed. Wax coatings to prevent water loss and fungicides to prevent decay are used to preserve fruits and vegetables that travel long distances.

Perhaps you can think of other reasons to add to this list. Local foods really are a win-win and something we can all support.