Why Local?

Why Local?

What is the big deal all about?  Why should we buy local?

First off, what does Local mean? Talk of local food is everywhere. But what does it mean? How local is local? Local is shorthand for an idea that doesn’t have a firm definition. Unlike organic standards, which entail specific legal definitions, inspection processes, and labels, local means different things to different people, depending on where they live, how long their growing season is, and what products they are looking for.

What Can Buying Local Do?

Benefit the Local Economy

  • Create more good jobs: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and in our community, provide the most jobs to residents.
  • Re-invest into other local businesses : Communities reap more economic benefits from the presence of small farms than they do from large ones. Studies have shown that small farms re-invest more money into local economies by purchasing feed, seed and other materials from local businesses,6whereas large farms often order in bulk from distant companies.
  • Local food keeps taxes in check. Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.  For every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, governments spend $1.17 on services, which increases taxes. For every $1 in revenue raised by a farm, a forest or open space, governments spend $0.34 cents on services. You do the math.
  • Encourage local prosperity: A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

 

Conserve Energy and the Environment

  • Local food promotes energy conservation. The average distance our food travels is 1500 miles, mostly by air and truck, increasing our dependence on petroleum.  By buying locally, you conserve the energy that’s used for transport.
  • Reduce environmental impact: Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.
  • Local food uses less packaging. Buying produce from a farmers market or from a farm itself is a no-frills process that involves less packaging.
  • Local food supports the environment and benefits wildlife. Family farmers tend to be good stewards of the land – they respect and value fertile soil and clean water.  Their farms provide the fields, meadows, forests, ponds and buildings that are the habitat for many beloved and important species of wildlife.

Supply Better, Healthier Food

  • Local food is more nutritious. Once harvested, produce quickly loses nutrients. Since local produce is sold right after it’s picked, it retains more nutrients.
  • Local food tastes better. By buying local, you are receiving the freshest possible produce, picked just hours before delivery to your local store. Produce that travels long distances is days older. Sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality and flavor.
  • Local food preserves genetic diversity.  Large commercial farms grow a relatively small number of hybrid fruits and vegetables because they can tolerate the rigors of harvesting, packing, shipping and storage. This leaves little genetic diversity in the food supply. Family farms, on the other hand, grow a huge number of varieties to extend their growing season, provide eye-catching colors and great flavor. Many varieties are “heirlooms” passed down through the generations because of their excellent flavor. Older varieties contain the genetic structure of hundreds or thousands of years of human selection and may provide the diversity needed to thrive in a changing climate.
  • Less pesticide use: Small farms often do not have as heavy pesticide use that can be a product of mechanization of large farms. Also, if you are curious you can ask the farmer and know for sure!

 Build Community

  • Get better service: Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know customers.
  • Invest in community: Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future.
  • Local food supports local farmers. The American family farmer is a vanishing breed – fewer than 1,000,000 people (less than 1%) of Americans claim farming as a primary occupation. It’s no wonder: it’s hard to make a living when you get less than 10 cents of every retail food dollar. By buying locally, the middleman disappears and the farmer gets full retail price, in turn helping farmers continue to farm.
  • Support community groups: Non-profit organizations receive an average 250% more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses.
  • Keep our community unique: Where we shop, where we eat and have fun — all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of this place. Our tourism businesses also benefit. “When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.” ~ Richard Moe, President, National Historic Preservation Trust.
  • Local food builds community. By getting to know the farmers who grow your food, you build understanding, trust and a connection to your neighbors & your environment. The weather, the seasons and the science of growing food offer great lessons in nature and agriculture. Visiting local farms with your friends and your family brings that education and appreciation to the next generation.
  • Local food is about the future. Supporting local farms today helps keep those farms in your community, ensuring that your children and grandchildren have access to nourishing, flavorful and abundant food. When you choose to buy locally, and make your choices known, you raise the consciousness of your family, friends and neighbors.

Preserve Cultural Heritage

  • Local food preserves farms and Cultural Heritage. Do you enjoy visiting the countryside where you see lush fields of crops, meadows of wildflowers, picturesque barns and rolling pastures? Well, this should also serve as a reminder that our treasured agricultural landscape survives only when farms are financially viable. By spending your money on locally grown food, you’re increasing the value of the land to the farmer and making development less likely.

 

What Buying Local could do in the Greenbrier  Valley.

The 56,000 residents of the Greenbrier Valley spend $139 million buying food each year; more than half of that—amounting to $80 million—is spent on food consumed at home (Meter, 2011b).   This is a huge potential market in the Greenbrier Valley for Greenbrier Valley–grown products.    If the residents of Pocahontas, Greenbrier and Monroe Counties purchased even half of their fruit and vegetables from Greenbrier Valley farms, it would keep more than $6 million in the region ( Greenbrier Valley Local Food: the Possibilities and Potential, 2011)

 

Did you know?

  • Hawaii imports 90% of its food.4
  • In 1866, 1,186 varieties of fruits and vegetables were produced in California. Today, California’s farms produce only 350 commercial crops.5
  • A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table.8
  • In the U.S., a wheat farmer can expect to receive about six cents of each dollar spent on a loaf of bread—approximately the cost of the wrapping.
  • Farmers’ markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer.

 Check out these articles on Buying Local Food:

Buying Local:How it Boosts the Economy, TIME Magazine

Why Buy Locally Grown?