Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - Why Buy Local?

What is a localvore or locavore? (I've seen both spellings).

One definition is "a person dedicated to eating food grown and produced locally".

Question immediately arise, such as: "what is local"?  Is it 10 miles?  50 miles?  100 miles?"  And, should that food only be organic food?  What if small local farms practice organic farming practices but don't have the money required to obtain an official organic certification?

Still, more and more people are investigating this food option.

This can get a little difficult if you live in the middle of a large city or in an area with a short growing season.

Here in the Binghamton, New York area there is a store called the "Old Barn Hollow Market" and it is an interesting place, indeed.
Their aim is to buy from producers 50 miles or less from Binghamton, although they will go up to 100 miles.  We are fortunate to be in dairy, maple syrup and apple/blueberry country.  For items not growable here (such as citrus) they have a buying club.  We haven't participated in that yet.
Here are a couple of examples of our recent purchases.  Above, left to right, is a loaf of day old cheese bread, a container of maple syrup-sweetened yogurt (made with non-homogenized milk), a quart of non-homogenized skim milk (and it was sooooo good) and a dozen eggs.  Not shown is garlic.  At the time of that visit, in March, the store was also selling beets grown using a technique called "high tunnels (or tall tunnels)"
This week we returned and purchased more garlic, some non-homogenized half and half (which was fantastic) and a bag of baby bok choy (I am going to blog more about the bok choy next Saturday).  The garlic, alas, is the last of the garlic until the new crop comes in late this summer.

So, why does it matter if you buy from a "localvore" store?

1.  You are buying from your regional neighbors and that money will circulate back into the local economy.
2. The owner of the store knows what he or she is selling, and can talk to you intelligently about all the items in the store.  If they can't answer your questions, they will go online and research (like the Barn Hollow person did with the bok choy above).
3.  You will know exactly who is growing or producing each product.  Each item is proudly labeled, and a good store will provide the websites or addresses of each grower. 
4.  The producers WANT you to contact them. Imagine that!  They want to have a dialog with you, their customer.  They want to know what they are doing right and what they are doing wrong, too, and if there is any product you would like to see them grow or produce.

5.  Although these items tend to be more expensive than store bought you can't assume they will be more expensive.  The garlic was quite reasonable, we felt, and a local supermarket was selling the same amount of baby bok choy for a dollar more - and the supermarket bok choy wasn't even local.  You have to shop carefully, but it can be worth the effort.
6.  This type store is a great alternative in areas where farmers markets do not operate daily.

Does your area have a localvore movement?

9 comments:

  1. Hi, great blog post,

    We have once a month farmers markets where you can purchase locally grown produce and purchase organic produce. I think it's important to support this. When I was growing up my parents used to take me to garden centres in the countryside and at one of these there was a side stall where a local farmer sold his produce and we always stocked up there of fresh fruit and vegetables. Have to say it was the most delicious food I ever tasted.

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    1. You were fortunate! I grew up in New York City and never tasted truly fresh food until I was 17. I was absolutely blown away by the taste of cucumbers and tomatoes, and ate so many peas I became sick. I am thankful to live now in an area where we have several good farmers markets, although the growing season is not the longest here in upstate New York.

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  2. I wholeheartedly agree! I have a friend who is developing an AP Love2Local on FB for our home town and is then going to make it available everywehre. Love your points and your post

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    1. I wish your friend the best of luck and hope her effort is a big success. Fresh, locally grown food at a reasonable price should be in reach of all people in the United States (and all over the world, too, which is another story...)

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  3. Alana, great post! I buy "relatively locally". Even within-region helps. Some have no dairy allergies when they buy the local milk. And yes, we have a locavore movement here (Phoenix). It is good! Btw, I spent a year in Binghamton for grad school. Beautiful area.

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    1. Thank you, and I find your comment about dairy allergies and local milk interesting. Eating small amounts of local, raw honey (in season i.e. spring honey in spring, fall honey in fall) is said to help with certain allergies. I know someone with a dairy allergy and I am going to mention the possibility of buying this local milk to her. I hope the locavore movement in Phoenix thrives.

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  4. Alana, I too go out of my way to buy local. We have farmers markets as well as a local market that supplies produce from local farmers, which is so lucky and always makes my so grateful to come home any time I travel. I appreciate your question of what constitutes local...it seems like a tricky question to answer.

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    1. The local question is a dilemma, as is a situation like the situation surrounding Chobani Yogurt. It is made in upstate New York so it can be considered "local" for me, they do buy from local farmers, and from what I can tell it is made from quality ingredients - they also employ nearly 2000 people. But it is available nationwide and I wouldn't consider it a "small" business. Personally, I like the product (especially the blood orange flavor) and I do eat it occasionally.

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  5. Great post! Eating locally (or mostly-locally) makes so much sense on so many levels, although I agree with "bookworm" above about the products of excellent "small" businesses that aren't considered local being hard to resist!

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