Produce from your local grocery store chain (whether it is organic or conventional) travels on average 1500 miles from the farm to your plate. There are several reasons this is a cause for concern:
- In most cases, the farther your produce travels the less nutritious (and tasty) it is by the time you eat it.
- Even though the grocery store appears to have a wide selection of produce, their focus is truly on varieties that will travel well and have a longer shelf life.
- Needlessly transporting produce all around the globe wastes natural resources and harms the environment.
As far as your personal health is concerned, eating organic blueberries from Chile is certainly better than consuming a box of something that is highly processed. However, buying local produce (whenever possible) will result in “fresh whole foods picked at the peak of their taste and nutritional quality” according to Michael Pollan. If you shop at your local farmers’ market you will automatically “eat food that is in season, which is usually when it is most nutritious [and it] also tends to diversify your diet.”
So after learning that organic carrots from a local farm (that were pulled out of the ground yesterday) might be more nutritious for my family than carrots from the grocery store I decided to start visiting our local farmers' markets. There are different types of markets and I have become fond of a “growers-only” market. Luckily the largest and most diverse growers-only farmers' market in the Charlotte area is fairly close to us – the Matthews Community Farmers' Market. I also visited the much larger Charlotte Farmers' Market and quickly got the impression that the people selling the food there weren’t the ones who actually grew it, which reminds me a little too much of the grocery store. (Find more market options through the Local Harvest website)
I also learned that if you are planning to hit a local growers-only market like the one in Matthews (especially in the winter) you really need to get there right when it opens – hello 7 A.M.! Shoppers are lined up before the opening bell even rings and if you get there too late some vendors might already be sold out. Here is a picture of some of the things I was able to get the other weekend.
Which leads me to my next point…you must be a little adventurous and willing to try new things because the farmers are basically only selling what’s in season in your area. Trying new recipes with your newly discovered produce can be fun and keep things interesting. Over the last month or two I have tried both rutabagas and collard greens – both items I don’t ever recall eating before. I still can’t live without my organic berries in my granola cereal every morning, but the best thing we can do for ourselves, for our environment, and also for our local agriculture is to try to add as much locally grown produce to our diet as possible. As you can see in my picture, in addition to produce some of the farmers also sell eggs, cheese, grass-fed beef and other locally & humanely raised meats. We have really enjoyed this new food shopping experience and since we aren’t really morning people we decided to sign up for an every other week CSA (Community Supported Agriculture Produce Box from Poplar Ridge Farm), starting in May. I love the idea of a big box of fresh, healthy, local and organic produce that has been reserved just for us!
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