Emily Kohlhas, Farmstand Staffer
This year, before I eat “organic,” before I eat “raw” or “vegan” or even “whole,” I resolve to eat local. Why local above all else? Because eating local is not only a personal choice but a political and environmental statement that has implications both at home and across the globe. Here are some of my top reasons for keeping food close in 2014 (and beyond!):
10. Because food is personal: I like to meet the people that grow my food, raise the animals I eat, and make the products I use. By connecting with the source of what I consume I feel more grounded in reality and better equipped to align my priorities with my values.
9. Because it tastes better: local, sustainable foods are fresher and tastier than their well-travelled cousins. While the lettuces of California’s big organic may look perfect year round, I know that I’ll find more pronounced and nuanced flavors in our own, scraggly butterheads.
8. Because it’s more fun: eating seasonally is more fun than buying whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like. You become connected to the seasons through your plate, constantly learning about new foods and being forced (well, encouraged) to experiment with new recipes and techniques based on what’s available.
7. Because chemicals aren’t meant for eating – or waterways: by buying from family farms committed to sustainability I’m not only able to control my exposure to chemicals and pesticides, but in my small way contribute to the reduction of farm-related chemical runoff that often accompanies large-scale agriculture.
6. Because animals are people too: if I’m going to eat a domesticated animal, I want to know that it lived a natural, full and happy life surrounded by caring people. I also want to do anything I can to take a stand against the horrors of intensive animal farming – because it’s disgusting, dirty, unsafe, environmentally disastrous, and, most of all, completely and totally inhuman.
5. Because local means less carbon: every beet counts when it comes to reducing the number of semis on the road trucking produce from point A to point Z.
4. Because dirt is at the root of it all: I vote with my produce budget to preserve the soil health of my region. By supporting local, sustainable farmers I also support their efforts to maintain the soil fertility and ecosystem health, because my kids may have to eat from that dirt too one day!
3. Because biodiversity rules: as the number and variety of crops diminishes across the globe, we (yes, I am referring to humankind) are becoming more at risk for large-scale crop failure and agricultural disaster. Biodiversity is not only more fun than “same old same old” in the produce department, it’s a tried and true way to safeguard food production from environmental disaster. Win-win!
2. Because open space is healthy space: local farmers are at the heart of efforts to preserve open spaces – and their ecosystems – in our region. Suburban sprawl may be great for strip malls and SUVs, but me personally? I prefer the birds and the bees.
10. Because like it or not, we’re in it together: With information speeding from one side of the planet to the other in seconds, it’s easy to forget that potatoes and leeks don’t function the same as 1s and 0s. When it comes to food, we’re tied to where we are – and it’s in our best interest to build a community of farmers and producers that are empowered to thrive with access to markets and fair prices. That way, we can rest easy knowing that our region isn’t reliant on rain in Chile or export law in China for its food supply. At least it helps me sleep at night…
Whatever reasons you have for eating local, I hope you choose to make it a big part of your 2014!