But one of the most common objections to the "eat local" campaign is that it's impractical for the majority of Americans. After all, since the Industrial Revolution, and the mass population movement from country living to city life, a good part of our population resides in urban or suburban areas.
How are these cities - especially the larger ones - supposed to feed their entire populations with food grown within 50-100 miles?
This may sound shocking to you, but the researchers mapped farmland around most major urban areas, and found that in most of these areas, over 80% of the populations could be fed with food grown or raised within 50 miles on existing rural and urban farms, and future potential farmland in the region.
Obviously this can vary depending on the area, and in some more populous areas, such as on the East and densely populated West Coasts, only about 20% of food production could feasibly come from nearby - although if one was to extend the area to include the entire state or region, it could certainly be a possibility.
So why don't we eat more locally grown foods? Part of it is simply our lazy human nature - and love of convenience. When just about every type of conventionally grown produce can be found at the local supermarket within a few minutes' drive from our apartment or suburban home, it seems too much of a hassle to drive 40 minutes to the nearest farm to pick up our groceries.
But I think when we take the time to learn about how important the quality of our food is to our long-term health - and the health of our planet, we realize it's worth a bit of extra effort. And more and more farmers are finding ways to make it more convenient for consumers to have access to their locally grown food.
Farmer's markets are common now not just in large cities, but in just about every little town and suburb out there! For example, I live in the Columbus area, and I think there are now upwards of 30 local farmer's markets - there's one within 10-15 minutes of just about every residential area in and around the city. Some are held on the weekends, but not all - in fact, you can probably find one going on just about any day of the week.
Not only can you get great, fresh, tasty produce of all different kinds, but a farmer's market can also be a really fun experience! Many now include live music and street performers, as well as vendors carrying lots of other items besides fresh produce - such as breads, jams and jellies, honey, hand-made soaps, and crafts. It's a great way to get outdoors, enjoy the fresh air, meet your local food producers, and pick up the week's groceries.
So yes, I would say for most people, eating local really is a possibility. All it takes is a bit of research to find out about the options in your area. (LocalHarvest.org is a great place to start.)
But lastly, the article also makes one final good point: Eating local isn't really all that helpful - for your health or the environment - if the local farms that are feeding you are dousing their crops with pesticides and planting GMO seeds. But shopping for local foods also gives you the opportunity to talk to the farmers who are actually growing the food, and inquire as to how they were grown - something you can never do if your food comes from a supermarket which ships it in from California or Mexico.
When shopping at your local farmer's market, or signing up for a CSA, be sure to ask the farmers about their growing methods - whether they use GMO seeds, how they control pests, what kind of fertilizers they use, etc., and choose to buy from farmers whose values align with yours.
By doing so, you are not only supporting your local community, and improving your health and the health of the planet, but by default, you are telling the food industry that you want better options when it comes to food choices. You want options that allow you to buy healthy foods that are safe to eat, and don't deplete the soil and pollute the environment. You want transparency as to where your food comes from. And that although you value convenience, you value quality, integrity, and responsible stewardship of our resources even more.
Let's spread the word about how easy it is to eat local! Please share this post with friends, family, and others you know - and make it a point to get out to a farmer's market in your area this week!
To your health (and the health of the world),