Supporting local producers is more than being trendy and being able to use #local on your social media posts… It means that you are helping to support families that worked hard to bring you that product and also the local economy. It’s a win-win really. You (consumer) benefits from the locally made product or freshly harvested food, and the producer benefits from the sale. Yay!
Local food economies need to be strengthened and accessed more often.
We consumers have been spoiled with readily available and diverse foods from the aisles of our grocery stores and often stray away from planning or consuming a diet consisting of seasonal food sources that come from our local area. Consuming a seasonal and local diet by way of, let’s say, shopping at a farmer’s market or by growing your own food at home is beneficial to not only you but the food system surrounding you. By doing these things, you are becoming less dependent on the market madness that goes on behind the scenes that brings you your food.
Our food system works very very hard to ensure that we consumers are buying safe and satisfying products, but is driven by consumer wants and does not prioritize sustainability. For example, if we demand vast amounts of spinach, our food system will have it imported from overseas where it is grown heavily because the demand cannot be made by only U.S. grown spinach. The amount of time, effort, and energy put into growing, harvesting, packaging and transporting our precious spinach is devastating on our envrionment and causes much damage. By growing your own or purchasing a local product in place of imported spinach (kale, mustard, turnip..NC grows spinach too!) you get a fresher, more nutrient dense product that has a much smaller impact on the environment.
All of that being said, I have listed a few simple ways YOU can get involved in and strengthen our local food system and reap all the benefits that locally grown and produced products have to offer!
#1 Shop/ Buy Locally
Make it a point to purchase products from your local farmer’s market, farm stand, pick your owns (berries), artisans, produce stands, nurseries, etc. When you purchase from local producers, your money spent will most likely stay in the local economy. Thriving economy=happy people.
(Pope’s Strawberries- Knightdale, NC. Notice the volunteer corn sprouting up in the strawberry beds…ha! love it!)
#2 Volunteer Your Time/ Talents
Volunteer at your local farmer’s market! Every farmer’s market has a “market manager” that is key to the market’s success and trust me… they are overworked and could use your help. Even if it’s setting up tents or hanging up market advertisements throughout town you will be helping to strengthen your local food system and giving farmers and artisans more business. Enjoy taking pictures? Take pictures of the market/farm stand/ pick your own and post them to the establishment’s social media AND yours! Boom. Free marketing!
(These ladies set up under the Education booth and gave market customers samples and recipes of seasonal and local dishes. Yay, go college kids!)
#3 Grow Your Own
Take control of what you eat and start growing it. Start small, maybe growing a few herbs you use in your kitchen often, and continue to expand. Enjoy the struggles and rewards from your crop and realize the effort and energy needed to produce food. Buy your seeds or seedlings from your local, family-owned hardware store or business. Keep all profits local!
#5 Get Cooking!
Take those newly purchased, fresh fruits and veggies from the farmer’s market and make them into a meal or snack! Cooking is intimidating, and we consumers are loosing the drive and ability to put togeher raw ingredients to make a nutritious meal. Get in control of your health by preparing food for youself- slice up that zucchini or squash you bought and bring it to work alongside some hummus, ranch, dip, etc. Easy peasy!
#6 Start the Conversation
When dining or grocery shopping, look out for and even request items that are produced locally. Encourage others to shop locally by sharing the word through social media or by word of mouth. Research for yourself how food is raised, caught or made and how it ends up on your plate. Wherever you are, there are advocacy groups, associations, etc. supporting the local food movement and strengthening our local food system- check em’ out!