Demand for local food is on the rise, and with good reason- Fresh and healthy locally grown food is good for eaters, the economy, and the environment. Local food brings people together, builds community and strengthens our food system at a time of supply chain shortages.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate 10 reasons to love local foods:
- Local foods boost small farm income. According to the USDA Census of Agriculture, 85% of local foods sales come from farms with less than $75,000 annual farm income. Local foods producers are typically small farms with limited production levels. Selling local allows small farms to operate profitable businesses on less land, with fewer inputs.
- Local foods pay producers more. Selling local cuts the cost of middle men. Farmers retain more of the selling price. Farmers also receive a better price-per-unit selling local foods direct to consumers than they do selling wholesale.
- Local foods create new markets. Increased interest and demand for local foods creates new markets for farms and food businesses. Farmers’ markets, food hubs and buying clubs are one-stop-shops for consumers to purchase foods from several farms. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) supports local producers through membership subscriptions.
- Local foods provide access in food deserts. Food deserts exist in urban and rural areas. Low income levels and health concerns in these areas further complicate the problem of food insecurity. Farmers’ markets and pop-up produce stands are a solution to food insecurity. These portable markets deliver healthy local food where it is needed most.
- Local foods meet nutritional needs of low-income households. Nutrition assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC and senior food vouchers are redeemable at participating local foods markets.
- Local foods are healthier. Imported food loses nutrients during travel and merchandising. Foods grown and sold close to home maintain a high level of nutrients.
- Local foods create community connections. Local food brings people together and builds community. It gives an area identity and instills a sense of pride in growers and eaters alike.
- Local food saves energy. It takes energy to produce, transport, process, pack and store food. The Natural Resource Conservation Service reports the U.S. food system accounts for 15.7% of total U.S. energy consumption (2007). According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the agricultural industry is responsible for 9% of greenhouse gas emissions (2014). Local food production still requires energy and emits CO2, but often reduces the amount of energy required to get food from farm to fork.
- Local foods are good for the economy. An estimated $6.1 billion dollars was spent on local food in 2012 according to the U.S. Census of Agriculture. Dollars spent on local foods circulate through the local economy, fueling growth and creating opportunity.
- Local foods strengthen the food system. A strong food system starts at home. When consumers buy local they invest in local farms and food businesses. Profits keep local land in production, securing a continual supply of food for the local market.
Where to find local food in Pickaway County:
New Century CSA, Circleville www.newcenturycsa.com
Honey Run Farm, Williiamsport, www.honeyrunfarm.com
Wippel Family Berks, Orient, www.wippelfamilyberks.com
The Farmstead Market, Circleville, www.facebook.com/thefarmsteadmarketcircleville
- Agricultural Energy Consumption in the United States, Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Sources of Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Environmental Protection Agency
- U.S. Census of Agriculture 2012, United States Department of Agriculture