It’s always important to support local farmers, but especially now while we’re currently living through a pandemic! Times are hard on everyone, but farmers are always “essential workers,” and now they need to work extra hard. In this blog post, I’ll share why supporting your local farmers benefits you, your community, and the planet. Then I’ll give you 6 tangible ways to do this! 

Before diving in, however, I want to clarify something super important.

This is a major privilege!

It is a gigantic privilege to be able to choose where to source your food and it is nearly impossible to source ALL your food locally. First, let’s address the absence of choice altogether in many communities. “Food Deserts” are common throughout the world, especially within cities and marginalized communities. This is defined as “geographic areas where residents’ access to affordable, healthy food options (especially fresh fruits and vegetables) is restricted or nonexistent due to the absence of grocery stores within convenient traveling distance.” 

Second, even if you have access to plenty of grocery stores and do not live in a “food desert,” you most likely won’t be able to source all your food locally. Take where I live in Colorado, for example. Due to our changing seasons and arid weather, there are so many things I cannot buy year-round if I’m only depending on local farmers. Much of the produce I eat in order to maintain a healthy and nutritious diet is not grown here throughout the year. I’m sure many of you can relate! But… do I really need to eat avocados every day? Or do I need to buy potatoes that came from somewhere far away in the country when I do have access to CO farmers growing potatoes?

There’s lots to consider here. If you have the privilege of being able to choose where to source some of your food, count it a blessing. Make those local / small-business purchases as you’re able.

But don’t stop there.

Consider how you can use your privilege and resources to support people without these choices. (I’ll be writing a separate blog post on this topic later in the month.) Consider buying food from or supporting organizations that are working to close these gaps in equitable food access within our country. (more about this listed below) 

With that in mind, let’s dive into why it’s beneficial to eat local as possible and how to do so!

Why Eat Local?

There are many benefits to shopping small and eating local! Let’s cover the top 3 ways this is better for you, your community, and the earth. 

Personal Benefits

woman cutting into pear on kitchen counter

When you eat locally produced goods, your health reaps many benefits. For starters, eating locally means eating seasonally, which provides your body with more nutrients. And don’t forget about the difference in FLAVOR! Produce that travels far distances to get to your grocery store needs to be picked before it’s ripe. This means the nutrient value has decreased as it’s been sitting. And with that, much of the flavor has been lost. I’ve definitely tasted the difference and there’s just nothing like truly fresh produce! Your tastebuds will be happy and your body will be thanking you for a more well-rounded diet.  

On top of this, eating locally grown food is safer for you. It passes through way fewer stations before getting to your plate, such as: harvesting, washing, shipping, distribution, transportation, and so on. This means there’s less chance of contamination along the way. Plus, you can ask your local farmer about their practices. How do they raise and harvest their crops? Do they use toxic pesticides? Knowing where exactly your food comes from is priceless. 

Benefits To Your Community

a person who supports local farmers at a farmers market

Plain and simple, local food supports the local community. The money spent supporting local farmers is reinvested in businesses/services within your community and economy. It’s also really nice to get to know your local growers. Then you have more of a personal connection to who is producing your food. This is a beautiful way to bring communities together. 

This also creates local jobs, so in a sense, you’re supporting your neighbors / community members in finding employment. Many small businesses, like restaurants, rely on this local food supply. So then, you’re also supporting families and entrepreneurs! 

As if this weren’t enough, many local farmers / food-related organizations are working hard to close the gaps and reduce disparities within communities lacking resources. Your purchase takes care of your own family, and also supports equitable food access for another family in need. (We’ll get into specific businesses like that below.) 

Benefitting the Earth

man planting seeds in soil

Where do I even begin with this one?? When you support local farmers, you’re contributing to a more sustainable system and cleaner climate.

Much of our demand for exotic or labor/resource-intensive foods that come from around the world is not maintainable without high costs. Entire ecosystems are being cleared out to make room for these facilities. Land is being taken away from native communities. Laborers are often treated very poorly…

Animals are being treated with terrible hormones/preservatives and being raised in disgusting living conditions. None of which are good for our own health, either… 

Unbelievable amounts of resources are being used up within this current system. So much water is demanded to irrigate commercialized farming that the surrounding communities are often kept in a drought. Transportation trucks emit insane amounts of carbon emissions from fossil fuels. Plus their interior temperatures usually need to be regulated by A/C, consuming even more energy and fuel. Our air is being polluted more and more and our climate is suffering deeply from greenhouse gases. 

Small-scale farmers/growers are often held more accountable by their own communities for safer practices. Organic farming is more common, and genetic diversity is preserved. Plus, these green spaces provide homes for more biodiversity (like insects, birds, and other animals). All of this is astronomically better for our earth, the living beings within it, and is more natural altogether. 

If you’re looking for more resources on this topic, check out this article with solid bullet-points, or watch this video on the vast impact of avocado farming alone!

6 Ways To Support Local Farmers

Like I mentioned in the beginning, I’ll be the first to admit I am nowhere near perfect in eating everything locally/seasonally. And I wouldn’t expect you to be, either! It’s nearly impossible to source everything locally. So, just consider what you can  do, and make those adjustments.

I have supported multiple local food distribution programs in the past and continue to branch out as I learn more. With the crazy seasons in Colorado, I support farmers markets in the summer months when possible. I still go to the grocery store weekly. The point is, look at the list of options below and consider what’s doable for you at this time. Factor in where you live, what your budget allows, and readjust as your life inevitably changes.

1. Farmers Markets

Depending on where you live, you may be able to access farmers markets year-round or only within the summer. Whenever they become available to you, definitely check them out! The atmosphere itself is often really pleasant and you’ll be surrounded by many local farmers, growers, and vendors to support. Don’t forget to bring your own bags! You can even ask if they’ll take back their plastic baskets, rubber-bands, etc for reuse. 

BONUS INFO: Some vendors will collect your personal veggie scraps to take back to their farms and use for compost! Be sure to ask about programs like this and see what’s available to you.

2. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs

support local farmers by receiving fresh produce inside a weekly food box

Signing up for a CSA is becoming increasingly popular these days. Basically, a farmer will offer a certain amount of “shares” to the public and consumers can buy one. Then they receive weekly boxes of seasonal goods throughout the farming seasons. Depending on the farm, you may be able to purchase produce, meat, dairy, bread, and so on. Check out this handy site to find a CSA program near you!  

3. Community Gardens and U-Pick Farms

path through an orchard with hanging fruit

If you live near a community garden, you may be able to experience the fun of growing your own food alongside your community! Another option is looking for “U-Pick” experiences at farms near you. These places will allow you to come and harvest food on your own. I especially love recommending these options to families with kids. Connecting your children to where their food comes from is an invaluable experience. It will shape their respect for the earth from a young age. 

4. Grow Your Own Food

This option may seem daunting or inaccessible for some people. But, if you have the capability of growing even a little bit of what you eat, go for it! Whether you’ve got a yard, space for a patio garden, or grow herbs on your windowsill, etc… Providing food for yourself feels satisfying and is, once more, sustainable. Check out these tips on starting a cheap garden or easy vegetables to grow in urban settings. (And hey, if you can do this, and you know others who have a garden — why not share with each other??)

5. Colorado-Specific Food Distribution Outlets

my bag of produce so I can support local farmers
(Weekly bag of produce from The GrowHaus)

Although these are in CO, particularly Denver and surrounding areas, you may have similar programs to these where you live. Take a look at the list below for some inspiration! 

  • Infinity Goods provides a zero-waste grocery shopping experience! You can order your groceries for delivery / curbside pickup with reusable packaging and much of their food is locally-sourced. (guys, even tofu!!) They collect, clean and reuse their containers, plus they compost leftover crumbs. What’s more is they’re offering a SPECIAL Plastic-Free July deal this month — July, 2020. You have a chance to win $100 or $50 discounts and you can use the code PLASTICFREEJULY to get 5% off your orders! They’re currently piloting zero-waste meal delivery with partnered restaurants as well. How awesome are they?! 
  • The GrowHaus is an urban food distribution program. They’re providing equitable access to healthy food within one of Denver’s largest food deserts. When their building is operational, they grow their own greens and mushrooms using hydroponics and aquaponics! In addition to this, they partner with other farmers to provide healthy food boxes to members and provide a marketplace. They also have a weekly FREE pantry with educational classes around cooking / healthy eating for the community. When you purchase from them, you’re directly supporting these programs financially. You also have the option to buy a food box for yourself plus donate one to a family in need! 
  • Goodshyft is a local grocery and meal-kit delivery service with 98% of their products locally sourced! They’re serving a large portion of the Denver-Metro area and are continuing to expand. They’ve partnered with local farmers, businesses, and restaurants to make healthy food more accessible and sustainable. 

Here are some important resources!

  • This is a link to a living document that gives you many options to Support Local Mile High Farmers! It provides the names of farms, what they produce, their website, and whether or not they offer wholesale. 
  • This is the 2020 Colorado Farm Fresh Directory that connects you to farmers markets, u-pick farms, roadside stands and more!

6. Local Restaurants and Buying Fresh

person eating food from a restaurant that supports local farmers

If nothing else, look into local restaurants in your area and see if they’ve partnered with any local food suppliers! You can always support local farmers through where you choose to eat / get takeout from. And finally, when at the grocery store, always try to buy fresh produce rather than frozen. This at least ensures you’ll have higher quality, nutrient-dense food. If you need to freeze it yourself for later use, that’s always an option! 

Support Your Community and Your Body!

If you’re privileged to choose where to source some of your food, why not choose the best option? Your lifestyle will be healthier, you’ll contribute to the flourishing of your local area, and you’ll experience a more sustainable way of living — as nature intended. On top of all this, you have the potential to support those in need. You can help close the gaps within equitable access to healthy food for all people. 

Even if you’re like me and need to gradually incorporate supporting local farmers into your regular routine, it’s worth it. Start with one small adjustment, then move forward from there. Every small business purchase you make is so much more fulfilling than the temporary convenience of a grocery store… Where will you begin?  

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