The concept of buying local is simply to buy food produced, grown, or raised as close to your home as possible. With over industrialization in the United States, our food is now grown and processed in fewer and farther locations, meaning it has to travel more to reach your refrigerator. Although this method of production is considered efficient and economically profitable for large agribusiness corporations, it is harmful to the environment, consumers and rural communities.
In the U.S. the average grocery stores produce travels nearly 1,500 miles between the farm where it was grown and your refrigerator. About 40% of our fruit is produced overseas and, even though broccoli is likely grown within 20 miles of the average American’s house, the broccoli we buy at the supermarket travels an average 1,800 miles to get there. (Pirog, Rich, and Andrew Benjamin. “Checking the Food Odometer: Comparing Food Miles for Local Versus Conventional Produce Sales in Iowa Institutions.“ Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, July 2003.)
So how does our food travel from the field to your grocery store? It’s trucked across the country, hauled in freighter ships over oceans, and flown around the world on a continuous basis. In fact, kiwi season has expanded to an all year fruit, being shipped from New Zealand and Italy. The high cost for that luxury is carbon dioxide gets absorbed into the kiwis, thereby into your bodies, not just the environment. (Rosenthal, Elisabeth. “Environmental Cost of Shipping Groceries Around the World.” New York Times, April 26, 2008)
A tremendous amount of fossil fuel is used to transport foods such long distances. Combustion of these fuels releases carbon dioxide, along with other pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change, acid rain, smog and air pollution. Even the refrigeration required keeping your fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meats from spoiling burns up energy.
If you live in New York, there are many Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs-- a weekly produce pickup from a local farm, delivered to a central location. Before the growing season, CSA members purchase an entire season of produce from an organic family farm. Each week during the growing season, the farm makes a delivery of fresh, organic vegetables and fruits.
The CSA I belong to is from Golden Earthworm located in Long Island and my garage is the neighborhood depot for Great Neck. Golden Earthworm delivers to several locations in New York so if you want to sign up, please go to Golden Earthworm for CSA locations near you.
The produce you receive every week is always fresh. It is often picked the same morning as delivery – as opposed to conventional produce, which is usually picked unripe and spends many days or weeks in transport before it is eaten. CSA Farmers grow many varieties of food that aren't readily available, providing exciting new food experiences.
“Buying regionally produced food is a keystone of sustainability: not only does it save the energy costs associated with shipping bulk produce, it keeps a portion of your grocery money close to where live.” (Norberg-Hodge, Helena, Todd Merrifield, and Steven Gorelick. Bringing the Food Economy Home: Local Alternatives to Global Agribusiness. Bloomfield, CT: Kumarian Press, 2002.)
“The 100 Mile Diet” authors Alisa Smith and James MacKinnon's wrote a book describing their experience in eating food only grown within a 100-mile radius of their home. They highlighted 13 benefits to eating locally; some of which are, less travel time for food thereby reducing carbon emissions, and supporting your local economy. Food transported short distances is fresher (and, therefore, safer) than food that travels long distances.
By supporting small farms, CSAs benefit the land in important ways. Growing organic means minimizing pesticide use. The agricultural chemicals used in conventional farming pollute groundwater, deplete the soil and can poison birds, animals (and farm workers!).
We are at a serious turning point in our lives due to our energy dependence and our economic recession. Communities must come together to reduce the use of fossil fuels, support our economy, and eat healthy.
The price of CSA membership is competitive and often cheaper than organic food prices at local grocery stores and even farmer’s markets. If you would like to enroll into the CSA in areas outside of New York, please click on the following link; Local Harvest for local CSA's near you.