There was a time when everyone was a locavore. The milkman delivered fresh local milk from the dairy just outside town. Prime cuts of meat could be selected from the butcher shop downtown, which purchased its stock from the rancher in the next county. Vegetables grown at the local farm were available at the market.
Then, as the industrial revolution took hold, everything began to change. The practices that revolutionized the manufacturing world started to find application in the world of agriculture. Synthetic fertilizers were developed. The chemical arms race of WWII resulted in the creation of synthetic pesticides.
Vitamin supplements, vaccines, and antibiotics allowed meat producers to raise great numbers of animals in close proximity to one another, a practice previously not practical due to the easy spread of disease through confined animal populations.
Advances in shipping technology allowed food to be shipped further afield than ever before. As many people relocated from rural areas to find work in urban centers, farming became more and more concentrated. And, as farming operations grew to the agribusiness giants they are today, so grew the distance our food had to travel from the farms to our plates.
But today, many people are attempting to source their sustenance closer to home, a practice that has come to be known as “locavorism.” And, there are lots of compelling reasons to do so.
For one thing, buying local puts money back into your community. When you buy from a large agribusiness corporation, farmers typically receive less than a quarter out of each dollar. When you buy from the local farmers market or CSA, you’re cutting out the middleman, so your local farmer gets to keep all but a dime of each dollar you spend.
Another reason to buy local is the fact that it cuts down on greenhouse emissions and other environmental pollutants. Food that must be shipped long distances contributes to global warming. The food produced by huge agribusiness farms is typically produced using gas-thirsty industrial equipment, and massive amounts of fertilizers, pesticides are often utilized.
That’s not to say that all locally produced food is organic, but it is more likely to be, as most of those concerned about the distance their food travels also tend to prefer that it not be produced using industrial pollutants.
Farmers respond to consumer demand, just like any small-business person would do, and because their farms are only a short distance away, their accountability level is higher. Of course, your local farmer is a local too, and she probably cares just as much about the quality of life in her community as you do.
Eating local also allows consumers to ensure that their food has been produced in an ethical way. Animal welfare and working conditions are easy to verify when your food is raised or grown nearby.
Finally, fresh local foods are just better. Compare the flavor of a locally-grown, vine-ripened, organic tomato to that of your average big chain grocery store fare. If you’re not already a believer in the power of eating local, you will be.
[Photo Credit: responsibletechnology]