Today’s supermarket produce section is an example of how connected our world is. Where we once had to wait for our local growing season, we now have access to a variety of produce all year as we import fruits and vegetables from all over the world. The result is that we don’t have to wait for June to enjoy strawberries or September for apples (if you live in the northeast, for example). Naturally, I’m all for a colorful diet all year, but have you ever stopped to think about what it means that we have access to just about every fruit and vegetable twelve months a year?
Aside from the cost you see on the shifting price tag of produce, which is possibly the only way we know today when something is “in season,” there are other costs that are less apparent:
When your local growing season ends, that produce may have to travel far in order for it to still arrive on your store shelves, which means much more fuel and a greater number of trucks on our roads. According to the EPA, transportation is the second leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, with about 9% of that transportation being due to agriculture. It’s important to note that if you choose to buy organic produce because you believe it’s better for the environment, and then source it from across the country, you may be actually doing more harm than good.
Impact on Local Economy
It makes sense that when we support our community farmers, we are also helping our local economy flourish. Small farms are found throughout the United States, many of which have thrived for generations. Yet, just a few, much larger farms, are providing most of our food. According to the USDA, both the number and development of small farms declined from 2007-2012. I’ve written before about the many ways we can support our local farmers and ensure they continue. Statistics like this underscore just how important this is.
Cost to Our Understanding of Local Agriculture
It may be difficult to quantify, but there is a “cost” to disconnecting from our local growing community. This is especially important for our children, who need to understand that produce doesn’t come from the supermarket. While it’s terrific that more markets are helping you “buy local,” visiting local farms and getting to know farmers remains important too.
So how can you support your local farmer this summer? Find your local farmer’s market and get to know the farmers. Chat with them, learn about their growing practices, find out what restaurants they deliver to, introduce your children to them, and use it as an opportunity to try new greens and vegetables. No doubt, you’ll love how fresh produce tastes when you get to enjoy its “just picked” flavor.