As we head into the dead of winter the roads are icy, it’s cold outside, and farmers’ markets are becoming a distant memory of summer (although some can still be found here and there), it can be a challenge to remain dedicated to going the extra distance or to making the extra stop to buy local food. However, it is important to remember that an abundance of local food is still available that there are numerous benefits to buying locally grown food.
Some of the benefits of buying locally raised food include:
Health benefits – Local food is fresher with a higher nutrient content, it is generally not processed (think maple syrup versus processed white sugar), and it encourages you to eat a more well balanced diet because you are purchasing healthy proteins, fruits, and vegetables.
Environmental benefits – Buying local food supports small farms and farmlands which may not otherwise be utilized for farming. It reduces the number of miles your food has travel to get to you which reduces the use of fossil fuels, and it raises consumer awareness of how the food is produced and whether or not it is being done in an environmentally sustainable way.
Economic benefits – Buying food from local producers is a great way to support the local economy. It keeps money close to home that is then reinvested in the community, it creates jobs, and it allows farmers to keep more profit because they are not paying for transportation and distribution costs to get their products to other areas.
Safe food supply – Local food is safer. The fewer steps there are between the food source and the consumer makes it less likely that the food will be contaminated. Distance and multiple steps to the final buyer correlates with more potential issues through the processes of harvesting, washing, shipping, and distribution.
Social benefits – One of the greatest benefits to buying locally are the social benefits. Buying locally brings people together not only because it supports local families, but it helps to develop relationships between the farmers and the community they are serving. People are more and more concerned about how their food is grown, the management practices used and whether or not the food is safe. Many conscientious consumers take the time to establish relationships with the farmers they are buying from in order to learn this information and to be comfortable about the food they are consuming. This communication and trust often leads not only to great friendships between farmers and consumers, but also to an increased knowledge by the consumer of agriculture and the local food systems. This is especially important as fewer and fewer people are directly involved in food production. An educated consumer is a good consumer.
In this area we are fortunate to have many hardworking individuals and families that give us a lot of options for purchasing local food. Even in January, a large variety of products can be found including meat (beef, lamb, pork, chicken), maple syrup and maple products, honey, eggs, milk, cheese, baked goods, and more. Many of these items can be purchased directly from producers as well as found at local stores throughout the area.
If you are looking for local food, but aren’t quite sure where to go to find it, call me at the CCE office at (518) 483-7403 or email me at [email protected] and I can help you find what you are looking for. Adirondack Harvest is also a valuable resource and has a guide that lists local farms, their products, and contact information. To find the guide click here. Printed guides are also available at your local CCE office.