Updated: Nov 2, 2020
I had never thought about buying local until this year; had you? It was always a case of just popping into a supermarket or getting an online delivery. I hadn’t considered food miles or source, just convenience.
Okay, I will admit it, prior to this year I wasn’t very green. I worked for a company that has led sustainable travel for 22 years and practised what they preached internally too, but when I got home, I could be as wasteful as the next person. And then Covid-19 hit. I was home more; I was having everything I needed delivered. I would get annoyed at the amount of plastic that things were packaged in and the sheer wastefulness. And then there were meals. I had time to cook but no access to the services I usually used, so I reacquainted myself with my oven. In order to cook you need ingredients, and it was at this point I learnt why it’s important to buy local food.
I didn’t really want to follow a trend, not my style, but this is more of a lifestyle choice than the trend the press defines it as. Many think buying fresh and local is expensive, but is it? I can get a box of vegetables and along with some nice cuts from the butcher, feed myself and my Mum healthy meals for a week and with so much less waste!
Local food is now a mainstream trend, with more and more people seeking out fresh, local options for produce and other goods. And more restaurants are sourcing locally grown ingredients as well, often using the term farm-to-table. This extends to natural skin care, clothing, gifts, drinks and even animal feeds.
But what is “local” food? How big of an impact does eating local food have on your health and the planet? And why is it important to know more about where your food comes from?
There’s no formal definition of the term local food so it’s really up to you to decide what buying local food means to you. For me it means using my local farms and butchers, my local wineries too, and within the county area and bordering counties. Suffolk as the hub and Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, and Essex as surrounding areas. Maybe it means foods grown and produced in your county or region and importantly, small batch producers. So yes, Cheshire Cheese from Cheshire, but a small specialist producer, and not a large organisation.
It has changed my ideas and my relationship with food I have to say. Although I trained as a dancer and ice skater, I haven’t always had the healthiest relationship with food, but buying local has really helped me have a better connection with it and what I am putting in my body. Strange you may say, but this is about taste and knowing that the produce is good quality and fresh. Of course scientists do say that local foods often retain more nutrients. Local produce can ripen naturally, while food that travels long distances is often picked before it’s ripe. Food picked fresh and in season doesn’t have far to travel before being sold. Let’s not forget that there will be no added preservatives to coat the produce to help it travel and ripen under artificial conditions either; a fact I was ignorant of! Local tends to be more organic too and compared to the “organic” ranges in supermarkets, cheaper and so much nicer. I’d rather have a jar of locally made jam or honey than the expensive store-bought ones, any day of the week. Something to think of here is that many small-scale farmers use organic methods but aren’t certified because they simply aren’t big enough to be able to afford the certification fees.
So, without getting preachy, some things to consider as well (which I hadn’t really considered before now). Eating more local food reduces CO2 emissions by reducing food miles. Local food helps preserve green space because when local farmers are well compensated for their products, they are less likely to sell their land to developers. But more importantly, fresher food tastes better and when food is picked and eaten at the peak of freshness, it retains more nutrients. Small, local farms often offer more choice and may grow a variety of organic and heirloom produce, which you might not find at the supermarket.
Supporting your local producers, not just of food, but of other goods and services, will aid your local economy and you will help to keep local producers in business. What’s not to like?