Friday, April 6, 2007

Putting our Money where our Mouths Are

So many Crunchy Cons are concerned about making certain we feed our families balanced, healthy meals. Often, we don't stop to think how much buying from out of state (or country) truly costs.

Following is an excellent article from the April-May 2007 issue of EarthWatch Ohio, reprinted and linked with their permission.

How Local Can You Go?
Take the “Eat Local Challenge” this Summer & find out!
by Kari Moore, Countryside Conservancy

In Ohio, demand for local food is growing. Buyers are seeking out fresh, healthy, delicious foods that are grown and prepared near their home. The efforts of the Countryside Conservancy, a local non-profit organization that is working to re-envision and rebuild local-regional farming and food systems in northeast Ohio, is helping provide resources for consumers to learn ways to achieve their “eat local” goal.

From the “100 Mile Diet” to the “Locavores,” it is obvious that the reasons to buy food locally is catching on. The benefits of purchasing food grown in your region are huge. Not only does the food taste better, but it is healthier for you and your community, and can help reverse global warming and many other environmental issues.

Here are a few of the benefits of eating locally:

LOW MILEAGE FROM FARM TO PLATE: Locally grown food typically travels 50 miles or less, reducing pollution and our dependence on fossil fuels.

FRESH TASTE: Local food usually arrives in markets within 24 hours of being plucked from the vine or dug from the earth.

DELICIOUS AND NUTRITIOUS FOOD: Because locally grown foods are so fresh, they are also more nutritious, containing higher levels of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that healthy bodies need.

PROSPEROUS FARMERS: 91¢ of each dollar spent in conventional food markets goes to suppliers, processors, middlemen and marketers; while only 9¢ goes to the farmer. Farmers who sell direct at local farmers’ markets keep 80¢ - 90¢ of each dollar. Selling locally, farmers can reduce distribution, packaging and advertising costs and offer us fresher, more affordable food.

VARIETY: Local farmers cultivate mouth-watering varieties of delicious foods like Green Zebra tomatoes, Northern Spy apples, Purple Dragon carrots, Buckeye Chickens, and many other fruits, vegetables, and livestock bred for flavor, nutrients and suitability to our local climate and soils rather than uniformity and endurance to withstand a cross-country road trip.

THRIVING COMMUNITIES: Buying local, a greater portion of our food dollar stays home supporting farms and businesses that make up our local communities and our regional economy. Northeast Ohioans spend over $7 billion on food annually. But less than 1 percent comes from local farms and producers. Localizing just 10 percent of our food spending would generate over $700 million for our local economy and communities.

So, how do you define local? For some, local means homegrown —fresh from their own garden. For others, local means foods from Ohio or the Great Lakes region. And others define local as food that is grown or produced within a reasonable driving distance from their home or workplace.

For starters, we suggest drawing a circle around where you live or work—a circle with a radius of say 100 miles—and use that as your guide. Bear in mind that “local borders” are flexible and fuzzy. Use your own good judgment when determining what is local to you.

So are you ready to take the local challenge? Remember, the Countryside Conservancy is here to help. VISIT www.cvcountryside.org TO READ ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW TO BEGIN YOUR JOURNEY. The Countryside Harvest Guide will provide you with the information you need: a comprehensive list of all the local farmers markets; farm directory; harvest guide; community supported agriculture programs; restaurants, caf├ęs and caterers that support local farms; grocers and retailers that offer local produce and meats; and specialty food producers whose delicious products add to the local flavor of northeast Ohio. The Countryside Harvest Guide is available on-line at www.cvcountryside.org and printed copies are available for $5.

For more information contact the Countryside Conservancy at 2179 Everett Road, Peninsula, Ohio 44264; (330) 657-2542; www.cvcountryside.org.