Why it’s important to eat local as much as possible and how you can do so year round.
We are pretty lucky, here in the Okanagan. We are in a part of Canada where numerous local farms are right at our fingertips and when the growing season starts, our local farmers offer us an abundance of delicious, local products and continue to provide for us well into the end of harvest. We truly get a farm-to-table experience!
Many of us have some understanding why supporting and eating local is a good thing. The one thing that we can all relate to is the huge difference in taste. There is really no comparison to eating watermelon that needed to be picked early in order to travel weeks to get to a grocery store, with an Okanagan watermelon that is picked and sold the next day at the farmer’s market.
Eating local means eating within a 100 miles radius of where you are. There are many important reasons to eat local and these reasons are all connected to each other such as the environment, health and the local economy. Our food system is a complex integrated network and what we choose to eat and what we choose to spend our money on really counts as a vote for food security and how we want our future to look like.
Choosing to support local farms creates a demand for future farmers. The average age of the North American farmer is 57 and only 5% are between the ages of 25-35. Ensuring that we continue to support local farms means that we are investing in locally produced goods for generations to come; we are making sure that we don’t have to rely on big industrial farms hundreds of miles away for a basic necessity.
When you buy directly from a small farmer, you reduce your environmental impact by buying a product that didn’t need to travel hundreds of miles to get to your plate. Not only did you reduce your environmental impact by saving the fuel consumption that it would take to bring in food from elsewhere, you reduce your support of industrial farms that ship all over the world and have no environmental benefits.
Buying local gives you a better understanding of where your food comes from. When you get to meet and shake hands with the farmer that grows your food, you learn how your food is grown and how it ultimately affects your health. You learn the growing practise of the farmer and the nutritional advantages of eating their products. After all - food is medicine, and when you have a connection to your food, you have a better grasp of your overall health.
So now that it’s Fall and the Okanagan growing season is over, does that mean we have to rely on food coming from elsewhere? Not necessarily!
This may simply mean a change in food mentality and expanding our tastebuds to try new foods that are still available locally during the fall and winter season. Or having to be a bit more creative with trying out new dishes incorporating these seasonally available products. Or trying our hand in the many different ways to preserve the harvest through different methods such as fermenting, canning, drying, freezing, etc. After all, there is something to be said to be able to open up a jar of preserved local food during the dead of winter, and knowing that you are nourishing yourself with good food that you had taken upon yourself to make with your own hands.