Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Eat...local food

You are looking at the gorgeous apricots that finally inspired me to sit down and do another blog post....I bought them today because I thought they were pretty. And I love apricots. I don't know why I love them so much but I would eat pounds of apricots if you let me...the flavour and texture is something special and I love how a perfect apricot is both sweet and slightly tart.

These apricots were also grown here in BC, which makes them even more special. Why? Because eating local food matters for a whole bunch of reasons. And I just might be in the mood to tell you all about it....

1. Local food means supporting your neighbours. When we purchase BC grown and processed foods, BC residents are hard at work to provide them for us. And when our neighbour's livelihoods are protected, so are ours. According to, most farmers rely on second jobs to make ends meet and about half of farm sales average less than $10,000 a year. Our farmers need your support otherwise we might well find ourselves without farmers in future generations. Our globalized world has many economists believing that there is no value in maintaining local business if another country can produce at economic advantage (Mexican tomatoes anyone?) but what about the impact on our community? I am no economist so I won't bother trying to make eloquent statements to the contrary...but if you Google hard enough, you can find information on how keeping your dollars in the local community end up producing a far greater economic advantage for that community than allowing your dollars to fly beyond the border. 

2. Local food keeps valuable agricultural land producing food, instead of being developed for another condo or strip mall. In BC, we are fortunate to have highly productive and fertile farmland that enjoys a longer growing season than much of Canada. However, our most valuable farmland also sits among the most in demand urban areas of Greater Vancouver and Greater Kelowna. The BC Agricultural Land Reserve, or ALR, is only about 5% of our total land mass. And 50% of that land is in the north...where we don't have such a hot time growing much through the bulk of the year. We produce an awful lot of food in a relatively small space. From cherries to chickens and buckwheat to berries, BC's bounty is awe-inspiring. There is nothing a developer would like more than to snap up some more land to build on. By valuing locally produced food, we keep local farms producing for another year and hopefully fend off the allure of development as well.

3. Local food is gentler on the planet. A significant proportion of the environmental impact of the foods we eat is tied to how far that food travelled to reach us. And while shipping produces fewer carbon emissions than flight or trucking....trucking 100 miles is certainly less harmful than trucking 1000 miles.

4. Local food can be better for us. Not always, but often. The reasons for this are many. Nutrients peak with peak picking fruit long before they are ripe to sustain travel leaves us with fewer nutrients. In addition, certain nutrients like vitamin C are very delicate and degrade quickly. Less travel means less time between harvest and you and better potential for nutrient retention. Long distance travel also favours hardier plant breeds, some of which are not as nutritious. However, if food is improperly handled, nutrients can be lost no matter how far the food has travelled and some fruits like apples and oranges are fairly sturdy on their own and retain nutrients well. My money is still on local though.

5. Local food helps us create more food secure communities. While food security is a complex social, economic and ecologic issue, if a community cannot produce any of its own food it becomes far more vulnerable to a globalized food supply. From political fallout to climate disasters, when drought hits California...we all feel it in higher prices and empty shelves. Just like in your investment portfolio, diversification pays off when it comes to growing food. 

I would love to hear your reasons for or against local on, my friends!

In good health,


Marianne (frenchfriestoflaxseeds) said...

I can't really see any arguements against buying locally. Sure, it might be a bit more pricey, but the product is almost always better quality and better flavour. Plus I like knowing I'm supporting people in my community/province/country.

Desiree Nielsen RD said...

It's true...I am hard pressed to think of arguments against - but I am sure they are out there! The price is usually considered the prohibitive factor but most of the commercially available foods out there have "artificially low prices". I read a great interview with Terry Bremner and he mentioned that the price of conventional potatoes has barely gone up in 20 years. The price of land, inputs and equipment has risen exponentially in the same time - but the price of the commodity hasn't moved.

Jennifer said...

Local apricot bliss! :) I would have to say apricots are one of my favourite fruits. Simply fresh and delicious!

C said...

oh i learnt all about this in LFS! Wendell berry made some pretty good arguments for supporting local communities in his article "conserving communities"