A recent food trend for restaurants is sourcing local ingredients. Joining a CSA produces similar results for the average consumer – that is, local, fresh ingredients. So why is this so popular? And what are the benefits?
First, as we noted last week, local produce means the produce hasn’t traveled 1500 miles to your plate, which in turn means less fossil fuels used and carbon dioxide released into the environment since mass transportation is not needed for local produce.
But did you know that large scale commercial farming often harvests produce before it is completely ripe? This needs to happen so when you receive several days (or weeks!) later the produce isn’t overripe. In order to ripen some produce, like tomatoes and pears, and get it ready for the market, ethylene gas is used. While this gas is the same created by bananas naturally and is not known to cause any harm, it creates that mealy texture in tomatoes you sometimes get from the grocery store.
Produce allowed to ripen on the vine has been shown to be more nutritionally dense than produce that is ripened in transport. While there have been substantial advances in refrigerated trucks allowing us to enjoy produce from all over the world, the longer produce is in transport, the more nutrients it loses.
Produce created for commercial purposes is grown because of its high-yield or ability to withstand long transport. But local farmers typically pick varieties that have better nutritional value and better taste, since they have direct access to their consumers and are concerned about the quality of the end product, as opposed to the quantity.
Besides better nutrition, local produce means more money back into the local community. Based on a 2004 study by a Civic Economics and a Chamber of Commerce, it was found that for every $100 spent at locally-owned stores, $68 is recycled into the local economy, as compared to $48 when spent at a big box store.
Finally, buying local means building sense of community when you know your farmer and the source of your food. For example, this is what one of our members said about our CSA:
Seven years ago, after having several health concerns despite eating “healthy” foods, our family realized that we didn’t really know how our food was sourced and we started CSA life. It was a change but worth it!!! Today, we eat our whole food meals, year round, having seen it grow on Nancy’s farm. The kids love little visits and helping on the farm, side by side with Nancy. I love teaching them about safe nutrition and a childhood that teaches the circle of life, hands on. Nancy’s care is friendly and her CSA allows us to eat a whole food organic diet that is within our financial reach. We are grateful! – Lorelei, member
Photo credit: American Independent Business Alliance