Monday, August 31, 2009

Why Buy Local?

Recently my husband and I were invited to a friends house for a Vermont cheese and wine tasting. It was a perfect summer evening for backyard dining and the setting was a foodie's fantasy. Surrounded by a bamboo grove, 12 hardcore Slow Food devotees, bowls of heirloom tomatoes, wines including mead and cheese, glorious cheese--my favorite food group. The variety and quality of the nearly local Vermont fromages rivaled anything I have eaten in Europe giving new meaning to "Made in America" and "Locally Grown". These are becoming the mantras in dealing with the challenges of fossil fuel dependency and Global Warming. And it begins with food.
Locally Grown is the new organic. Not that there is anything wrong with organic which is defined as fruits and veggies grown without chemical pesticides and insecticides. In the meat world hormone free, free range and grass fed are the equivalent and in the sea world wild caught fish trumps farm raised. After all, Organic is the way all food was raised and grown before the 20th century. While organic has become increasingly popular in the past decade, some of the standards have veered away from its original ideals. In addition, organic labeling is an expense many small farmers cannot afford. Some local Lancaster farmers employ organic methods but market their products as pesticide free. The wildly popular Saturday morning Winston Rd. Farmers Market has such farmers. They are often available to answer questions about their farming methods. Customers like the fact that they are supporting local businesses, getting a fresh products and helping to reduce the energy consumption involved in shipping.
Energy consumption is something to consider as well as a country's farming standards. A crate of tomatoes shipped from Holland consumes a tremendous amount of energy to get here. Asparagus grown in Central America? If I am warned not to drink the water in a particular country, why would I eat the veggies that were drinking that very water?
Locally grown has become extremely popular as people consider their food source more thoughtfully. And it's much easier to do this in the summer in the Northeast when produce is so abundant. Last week, on our way to Maine, we stopped at farm stands and quaint little towns from Kennebunkport to Cambridge and Salem to Portland. "Buy Local" was the common theme in promoting these communities and they appeared to be thriving. Supporting local businesses, particularly independently owned that craft their own products, results in more money kept in the local economy. Good for the community and good for the earth-win win.