Locally grown food is a great place to start when you are trying to follow healthy eating or green living lifestyles. Both lifestyles will benefit from eating organically grown foods from a local farmers market. You benefit in many ways including buying locally so that the local economy prospers from the fruits of the local farmer’s labor. Green living advocates will love the fact that organically grown food is done in a way that is environmentally friendly using only biodegradable pesticides and no toxins.
There is nothing quite like being able to talk to the person who grew your food to be sure that it was grown without harmful pesticides! It is also nice to be able to say thank you to the local grower who has provided you with fresh fruits and vegetables.
The number of farmers markets increased 2.5 fold between the years of 1994 and 2006. According to the USDA farmers markets account for approximately $1 million in local food sales. A significant part of local food sales is organic or natural foods. Looking at total foods sold, organic or locally grown foods probably only account for 5% or 6% of the total retail food market. This share will continue to grow as more individuals become aware of the benefits of buying from local food markets, including farmers markets. Typically producers of local foods are from smaller farms.
One reason people are choosing to buy locally grown foods is because they can purchase fresh, local foods that taste better than that found in grocery stores. Who hasn’t purchased a rotten, or wilted piece of produce from the store? The food you buy at a store is considered to be “industrial food” because it follows a system designed to be economically efficient by producing foods that can be harvested mechanically, then packed and shipped long distances while still retaining a long shelf-life in the grocery stores. To achieve this long shelf life quality clearly equates to appearance of the food and not necessarily the quality of the nutrients and condition of the food.
Food safety is another reason why consumers are choosing to buy locally grown foods over commercially produced and distributed foods. This concern is what has driven the popularity of natural or organic foods higher as more people are learning about pesticides and hormone and antibiotic use in commercial foods. Individuals who buy food locally expect the produce to be free of the potentially harmful chemicals and biological residues found in industrial foods.
The American public are being educated through books and Websites about how commercially produced food is deficient in everything except calories and toxins. Commercially prepared foods have also been accused of false advertising, of using too many artificial ingredients and us using potentially harmful agrichemicals and food additives in order to prolong shelf life and keep profits high.
Scientific studies seem to confirm these consumer fears regarding industrialized food safety. The fears have as much to do with what has been taken out of foods as what has been added to them. Recent research has revealed that industrial foods are indeed lacking in nutrient density, meaning lacking in essential vitamins, minerals, or other nutrients that are a necessary part of a healthy diet. Such deficiencies in nutrients are linked to diet related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. When researchers compared nutrient density between industrial foods, organic foods, and foods prepared pre-industrial foods (1950s) they found that there is a link to the foods density and the changes in farming practices after the 1950s. These changes in farming practices have to do with standardization, consolidation, and industrialization of American agriculture.
These studies add credibility to the push to buy locally grown produce for those who desire healthier eating or green living lifestyles.