Do You Buy Local?

Buying local is one of those green buzz words we hear about.  It simply means buying food (or other things) that were produced close to where we live.  There’s a whole movement to encourage buying local and people who are pretty strict about it are called locavores.

The idea is simple.  If we buy local, there is less gas used to ship the food where it needs to go, so we are reducing fossil fuel consumption, pollution, and overall saving energy when we choose local products. The food is fresher if it’s shipped shorter distances, so it tastes better and lasts longer.  Food also loses nutrients after being picked.  If we buy local, we’re getting more nutrients in our food.   We are also supporting our local economy and helping our own area thrive.

There are arguments about whether organic or local produce is better.  Many people argue that buying local is more important from an environmental stand point than buying organic.  They say, if given the choice between local and organic, we have more of a positive effect by choosing local.  There are those who say organic before local for our health.  They argue we don’t want to eat pesticides ever, so we should always buy organic, but if we have the choice of local organic, that’s what we should choose.  Then there are those who believe there are pros and cons to both, and when you factor everything in, local and organic are the same.

To make things even more confusing, some local produce may be organic and just not certified as such.  The process to obtain certification through the USDA is costly and time consuming. Many small farms simply can’t do it, but they still grow their food organically.

I’m of the buy organic, and local if I can camp.  I’ve been really trying to improve my local buying, however.  If you’ve been thinking about trying to buy local, here a few simple ways to do it.

1. Buy In Season

With all the shipping going on, we can get virtually any produce year round.  But those blueberries in the store in January aren’t local.  They’re probably not even from the U.S.  If it’s in our gardens right now or our neighbors have it in theirs, the produce is in season.  Another way to tell is price.  In season produce is less expensive than the same produce in the off season.  The in season produce is often in big bins in the front of the store with sales all over.  When there’s a lot being harvested, the price drops. Buy it at the store.  Tomatoes are in season right now.  Buy them up and can them for the winter if you don’t have them in your garden.

2. Read The Labels

A lot of grocery stores mark where the produce is from, or they have stickers on them that say where they were grown.  You’ll have to decide how far is acceptable for you to consider the produce local.  I live in Southern California.  There’s produce around here all the time, so maybe I can choose a shorter distance than someone in New York who wouldn’t have much produce in the winter if they didn’t get it from Florida. Read the labels and walk away if it doesn’t fit your criteria for local.  I passed up apples this week.  They aren’t in season right now and my only option was from Chile.  Too far for me.

3. Join a CSA

CSA stands for community supported agriculture.  Typically it’s a farm or group of small farms that get together.  You sign up and pay.  Then every week you receive a box full of local produce.  Frequently it’s also organic, just not certified because of the small size of the farms.  If you join a CSA you’re getting local produce and supporting your local farmers.

Some CSAs require you go to a pick up location once a week for your box.  I joined Farm Fresh To You. They deliver to my door.  Again, nice being in Southern California where the farms can do that.

If you join a CSA be aware you don’t get to choose the produce you get.  You get what’s in season and what’s growing.  Sometimes there are veggies you’re not familiar with or don’t like (turnips).  Try them, find new recipes, give them to your neighbors who like them, feed them to your tortoise.  A lot of them are pretty good (leeks, anyone?).   Also, here the CSAs are year round.  They’re seasonal in places with snow.

4. Visit Your Farmer’s Market

Farmer’s markets are populated by local farmers.  Again, they’re produce if often organic, just not certified.  The lovely thing about the farmer’s market is you can talk to the growers.  Ask them if their produce is organic.  Ask them how to prepare a new veggie.  They like to talk and educate the public about their farming practices.  You might even score an invite to visit the farm.  If they’re not forth coming, move on and patronize another farmer at the market.

Do you buy local?  Any other tips to make buying local easier?

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About Jessica Anne

9 Responses to “Do You Buy Local?”

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  1. Kristin @ Peace, Love and Muesli
    Twitter: kristinglas

    I think you know where I stand. I’m a permanent fixture at the farmers market.

  2. Moomser
    Twitter: moomser

    I wish we had CSAs here in Italy! I try to buy locally too, but sometimes I get a hankering for tropical fruits like mango, papaya and avocados and those only make it out here on a boat from africa or south america. Though I make up for it by being definitely very “local” in the summer, as in my backyard local! I have tomatoes, salad, a bunch of different green leafy vegetables, loads of herbs and zucchini (drowning in zucchini this year!) and then I trade my extras for fruit with the retired gentleman that cares for my vegetable garden as he has loads of fruit trees. (I had you thinking I actually gardened didn’t I?! If I did that I’d starve as I’m capable of killing even cacti!).
    In Italy we call buying locally “km0” as in it’s taken zero (or rather, very few) kilometers to go from farmer to buyer.
    So, how do I classify on the buying locally-o-meter? I think I at least offset my passion for “exotic” fruits with my truly km0 vegetables!!

    • Jessica Anne says:

      I think that sounds like you’re doing a great job! I definitely understand the tropical fruit thing. They’re hard to do without. They’re We’re redoing our backyard and I’ll have a nice garden area for growing things. I think hiring someone to do it is a fantastic idea. I have a bit of a black thumb. :)

  3. Ali says:

    i just bought a living social voucher for farm fresh to you! have you received any packages yet? did you choose a veggie, fruit, or combo pack?

    • Jessica Anne says:

      I’ve been getting the packages for three months now. I did the combo pack. I tried the fruit only pack and thought it wasn’t worth the price. It seemed pretty small. So I went back to the combo pack. There’s not tons of fruit in it, but a little and fruit goes over big in our house.

  4. Jen @ LitasWorld
    Twitter: litasworld

    I try to as much as possible. We get our CSA box every other Friday and honestly, I can’t wait for it to come!! I would love to get it ever week and when I know we’ll be home more, I will. Luckily, we have amazing farmers markets around here too – so I try to support them as much as possible not just buying produce, but I love the homemade hummuses (is that a word?!?) tofu and flatbreads. Not to mention all the tasty food booths set up there for a bite to eat.

    I’d really love if I could grow all my own everything..but that’s a huge dream for another life (or later in life – not sure which yet).

    Jen @ LitasWorld´s last post ..How Time Flies

    • Jessica Anne says:

      I love the hummuses (if it wasn’t before, it’s a word now) and breads and food booths at farmer’s markets too. Growing everything myself is a dream of mine too. We’re redoing our garden so it will be bigger, so hopefully next summer I’ll have a decent harvest. Maybe not everything, but a lot. :)

  5. Sarah says:

    Local businesses are owned by your neighbors, people who live in your town, and who are more invested in your community’s well-being and its future. So yes, I buy local whenever possible. I may pay a little more and sometimes get frustrated with inconvenient hours or unavailable items, but it’s important to me to support business in my community.
    Sarah´s last post ..Construction Machinery