I love this time of year. The farmers market has returned to Boise. I grew up going to a local farmers market. It was one of my favorite things to do with my mom. She grew up on a farm and taught me about the importance of eating locally sourced crops. Her favorite was tomatoes. Have you ever compared a farm fresh local tomato to a store bought tomato? The difference is night and day. There are so many benefits to eating local produce. Let's take a look at some of them.
Locally Grown Food is Full of Flavor
Locally grown crops are generally picked at their peak of ripeness versus being picked prematurely and shipped to retail stores where they sit on store shelves for who knows how long. Usually crops sold directly from farmers at farmers markets have been picked within 24 hours of a sale. So you can bet that they're going to be more full of flavor as well as more nutritious. There was a report that came out within the last few years that said some produce bought at supermarkets can be as much as one year old. Nutrients in crops disappear over time, meaning that crops such as apples have almost no antioxidant properties once they are purchased from big box stores. So much for an "apple a day...". That's why it's best to purchase local crops as close to harvest as possible.
Eating Local Food Means Eating Seasonally
It would be nice if some of our favorite crops grew year-round, but that's not usually the case. Apples are generally a fall harvest crop, so when you purchase one in the spring from a supermarket, it's most likely been sitting in a storage room for months before it's put onto store shelves. The best time to eat produce is just after it's been harvested. As stated above, this means the crop will be ripened naturally and have the most nutritional value.
Local Food Has More Nutrients
I don't mean to sound redundant, but local produce contains more nutrients. This is important if you are trying to get more nutrition from the foods you eat. Some produce is shipped half way around the world or stored in refrigeration rooms for months before it ends up on store shelves. Eating locally can almost guarantee that you are getting the freshest, most nutritious crops possible.
Local Food Supports the Local Economy
Idaho is famous for its potatoes, but that's only a small sample of all the crops that grow well in the region. I love supporting local farmers in and around the Treasure Valley. Some of my favorite local farms are Purple Sage, Peaceful Belly, Fiddler's Green Farm, and more. I know that when I buy from local farmers, the money stays close to home and is reinvested into businesses and services within my community.
Local Food Benefits the Environment
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that eating locally sourced food is better for the environment. When purchasing local food, you are helping to maintain farmland in your community. Also, local crops don't travel as far to get to store shelves or farmers markets. Bananas don't grow in Idaho, so I can't help but think about all the jet fuel that was used to transport them to the Pacific Northwest.
Local Foods Promote a Safer Food Supply
Knowing your farmer and where the crops were grown generally ensures that you're purchasing safer and cleaner crops. There have been quite a few crop recalls recently. So while you were fearing store-bought Romaine this past summer, I was enjoying locally sourced organic Romaine purchased directly from a local farmer. Also, I trust local farmers when they say that their crops aren't sprayed with glyphosate. Did you know that some mass produced 'organic' crops have been shown to contain glyphosate. When I purchase something that's supposed to be 'organic', it's nice to know that it most likely is organic. I trust local farmers more than I trust large companies.
Local Farmers Can Tell You How the Food Was Grown
It's unfortunate, but it often costs farmers more money to get their crops organically certified. That's a cost that's most often handed down to the consumer. So some local farmers choose to grow organic crops without being certified. Shopping at a local farmers market allows us to talk to the farmers and ask them if their crops are unsprayed. I generally find that most local farmers don't spray their crops even if they don't have organic certification. Plus it's always a treat to find out where your food comes from and how it is grown.