When I first heard about the “Eat Local Food” movement, I didn’t get it. What’ wrong with a Mexican strawberry or a Chilean grape? What difference does it make if my peach is grown in California or Georgia? It turns out it does make a difference for a lot of reasons. Here’s why:
- First of all, local fruits and vegetables often taste better than those that have to be transported long distances. They are usually allowed to ripen “on the vine” longer. Fruits transported ripe over long distances would likely rot before they reached your grocer’s shelves. So they are picked green. You buy that rock hard peach hoping it will ripen on your kitchen counter, but it goes from hard to mold without ever developing the sweet rich test of a peach picked fully ripe.
- Next, “fresh” fruits and vegetables at most large chain grocery stores are not really fresh. According to Marion Nestle, author of “What to Eat,” that California-grown broccoli you buy in New York was picked and stored in a local warehouse before being transported to a regional distribution center. It was then placed on a refrigerated truck and sent to another regional distribution center. Then, it’s onto yet another truck to be hauled to the local supermarket where it is placed in the stocking area and eventually put onto the shelf. This process can take a week to 10 days. Does that sound fresh to you?
- Years ago, my husband and I grew corn in our backyard. We used to have the water boiling before we picked it. We would run into the house, boil it lightly, and then chow down on the sweetest, most flavorful corn you can imagine. I’m salivating thinking of that taste. That was a bit extreme, perhaps, but it seems to me that “fresh” implies something quite a bit shorter than 10 days in a truck.
- Buying local food, from farms or farmer’s markets, helps to support local farming. That is good for local economies.
- Local food is also less polluting. Less gas and oil are needed to move something 30 miles instead of 3,000 miles. There is also less need to use packaging, preservatives, and artificial means to force ripening.
If you want to learn more about the Eat Local Food movement, here are a few websites:
This blog was originally published on the PEERtrainer website (www.peertrainer.com) on July 20, 2006.