Imagine two cucumbers sitting side by side. One was imported from Mexico, and the other was grown here in Indiana. From the outside, they appear nearly identical. But are they? And which one should you choose?
Both options can have their pros and cons. Buying the imported cucumber may get you a slightly better price, but the locally-grown cucumber might come with the assurance of ethical production standards. Today, we are going to explore the benefits of the latter option—buying produce locally.
First, local produce can be more nutritious. Vegetables loose some of their nutrients each day that they are stored, so eating them sooner rather than later is a good idea. When vegetables are transported from Mexico or California, it can take weeks to reach the end consumer. But when buying local, it is possible to receive vegetables that have been harvested that same day.
Buying locally can also result in better flavor. Many vegetables sold in the grocery store are picked before fully ripe. This technique allows the vegetables to survive transportation and arrive undamaged and fresh, but they may lack the robust taste typical of a vine-ripened variety. In addition, the types of vegetables grown commercially were bred for a long shelf-life and other qualities rather than flavor. Because of shorter shipping times, produce grown locally can be a more traditional high-flavor variety and harvested at peak ripeness for best taste.
With local produce, consumers can have the assurance of knowing where and how their food was grown. Consumers can easily connect and interact with their farmer. Whether it is concern over pesticide use or curiosity about other practices, all it takes is a quick conversation at the farmer’s market or an email sent directly to the farm manager. There are few middle men, no warehouses, and no produce markets that make it difficult to track down the real source of your food.
Finally, buying locally supports the surrounding economy. In many ways, choosing the Indiana cucumber from the California cucumber is a way of investing in those around you. By keeping the money in the state, region or county, it can encourage local job creation and stability, and support local governments.
What do you think? Why do you choose to buy food locally? Are locally-grown foods worth it?
Inspiration came from this article from Michigan State Extension: Klavinski, Rita. “7 Benefits of Eating Local Foods”. April 13, 2013. Michigan State University Extension. <http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/7_benefits_of_eating_local_foods>