It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are one of the best, if not THE best source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Plus, produce contains a component that you don’t find in animal foods – fiber. If there’s a dietary component that most people get too little of – it’s fiber.
Based on this, you might assume the more you eat the better – and that’s true unless you’re dousing your veggies in a heavy gravy or eating them with a sugary sauce. Fortunately, since non-starchy veggies are nutrient dense but high in water, you can eat tons of them without seeing your waistline expand. Plus, when you fill up on vegetables, you’re less likely to overeat other less healthy fares.
With all the health information coming out about plant-based diets, the desire to consume more plants is bound to grow. But, when you do eat your fruits and vegetables, where do you get them? Do you buy them at the supermarket or at a local cooperative or Farmer’s market? If you’re still shopping for produce at a grocery store, it might be time to rethink this practice. Buying locally, at a Farmer’s market or Co-op and purchasing seasonally, is better for your health, your community, the environment, and your pocketbook. What are the benefits of buying vegetables and fruits locally and in season?
Seasonal, fresh vegetables from a country farm are infinitely more flavorful. If you’ve ever bought tomatoes in the middle of winter, you know how lacking in flavor they are. When you buy foods in season, you enjoy the richness of taste that comes from being freshly pulled from the ground or plucked from the vine. Also, when you purchase seasonal produce locally, you get fruits and vegetables right after harvest when they’re the freshest and tastiest. There’s no better way to enjoy the most flavorful produce, with the exception of planting your own garden – and that’s not a bad idea either! Buying seasonal and from local farmers is the best way to enjoy the rich flavor that fresh produce can offer.
When you DON’T buy local, your produce may have traveled hundreds of miles. Even after its journey, it may have spent days in several distribution centers before making its way to you, all the while losing nutrients. After harvest, produce can occupy 5 days or up to several weeks in transit. The supermarket then stores them for up to a week before placing the items on display to be purchased. There they can set for several days under bright lights where the nutrient loss is rapid. You can expect a significant loss of vitamin C and B-vitamins before they even reach you.
In contrast, farmers bring local produce to market soon after harvest and travel time is substantially shorter. If you’re eating fruits and vegetables for their vitamins and minerals, you’ll get more bang for your nutritional buck if you buy locally.
Better for the Environment
The main reason buying seasonally is better for the environment is produce doesn’t have to travel as far to reach you. So, fuel requirements are lower and less pollution released into the air. Here’s a quote from the Council on the Environment of New York City:
“Transporting food long distances uses tremendous energy: it takes 435 fossil-fuel calories to fly a 5- calorie strawberry from California to New York.”
When you buy locally, at your community Farmer’s market, you give money back to your local society. In contrast, when you purchase produce at a grocery store, you may be buying from a large, corporate farm or purchasing produce that was raised overseas. Plus, buying locally brings you closer to the farmers in your area. They have families they’re working hard to support and appreciate your business.
The number of small, family-owned farmers is declining at a rapid rate. Farmers that continue to produce crops are at an economic disadvantage compared to large factory-owned farms. They have a hard time making ends meet. Who wants to see farming become the exclusive domain of corporate and industrial entities?
There are economic advantages for you too. When you buy seasonally and locally, you get fruits and vegetables at lower prices than you’ll find at most grocery stores.
The Feel-Good Factor When Buying Local
It simply FEELS better to shop with a local farmer or a local Co-op rather than a supermarket owned by a corporate entity. Shopping in an outdoor farmer’s market is a unique experience, quite different from pushing a cart through a grocery store.
How Can You Enjoy These Benefits?
If you have a local Farmer’s market, pay it a visit. Another option is to frequent a food co-op in your area. They buy their produce from local vendors and usually have an enticing selection of fresh fruits and vegetables in season. You can also take advantage of community-supported agriculture or CSA. This arrangement allows you to buy shares or a subscription to what a local farmer produces. In return, you get a delivery of seasonal produce to your home every week throughout the season. It’s a good way to gain access to new vegetables and fruits and get them at their peak of freshness.
Some farmers are expanding the CSA concept to include eggs, cheese, meat, and even homemade items such as bread. It’s a concept that too many people are still unfamiliar with but one that works and is likely to grow. Don’t forget, you can also load up the family and head to a pick-your-own vegetable farm. Lots of benefits here – sunshine, exercise, and healthy produce.
The Bottom Line
Buying local is a way to support your community, get the freshest produce possible, and maximize the nutritional content of the produce you eat. You’re also doing something positive for the environment when you purchase fruits and vegetables from sources close by. It’s a win-win arrangement for you, your community, and the farmers in your area. Explore your local area and see what resources you have for buying the freshest, seasonal produce.
“Maximizing the Nutritional Value of Fruits and Vegetables. Diane Barrett
Observer. “The Environmental Benefits of Organic and Local Food”
Local Harvest. “Community Supported Agriculture”
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