The importance of locally grown produce
I will start by admitting that my posts are less scientifically based than other writers on this blog, and instead they are topical subjects that I personally have a passion about. Nevertheless, here is my latest offering on my opinion on how important locally grown produce is.
Locally grown produce is a common push/pull factor for the ecologically conscious of us when food shopping. Strawberries from Kent obviously have a smaller carbon footprint than strawberries from the States, and eggs from England have greener credentials than eggs from Egypt. And this is great; it is a step in the right direction if UK, as a nation, wants to reduce their impact upon this world. The supermarkets are slowly cottoning on too.
However, in the grand scale of things, this change, I think, is pretty small, and I propose that where possible, local communities, such as small towns and villages, should sell their excess produce (arable and livestock) locally. There are numerous benefits of this, which I will outline below:
1) Carbon footprints – locally sourced produce comes with a much less significant carbon footprint. The distance food has travelled could be measured in meters rather than miles. The waste from this food would be pooled either in a green/garden waste collection scheme, or in personal composters. This keeps the nutrients gained and lost from these plants in the local area, with the compost being available to gardeners to re-stock the mineral and nutrient levels in their soils.
2) Community – The local community getting together and growing and trading produce is a great way to get to know your neighbours and to learn about services that they can do that benefit you. For example, you may travel to a large city once a week to visit your therapist, racking up miles of carbon emissions in your car. However, there could quite possibly be a local therapist that you aren’t aware of. Also, a daily/bi weekly food market in the town keeps money local, allowing the residents to see more benefits of their local spending.
3) The food will be honest with few hidden dangers. Small scale agriculture rarely uses harmful pesticides/insecticides. There will likely be no genetic modification (which is often frowned upon), and best of all, it won’t be packaged in several meters of plastic packaging. Transportation from plot to market will obviously need the use of plastic/wooden crates, but the produce will be sold loose, with no plastic wrap around each item. This also gives the buyer much better control over which products they buy, e.g. large tomatoes or smaller tomatoes.
4) Major supermarkets have size regulations on each produce item to make sure they are ‘aesthetically pleasing’. So if a carrot had a diameter outside its 35-65mm range, for example, it would be discarded or rejected. Local market shops are much less likely to discard unusually shaped produce. An example of this is locally grown lemons, like in the picture below, which would not be sold by supermarkets but are for sale at local Italian markets.
5) In the case of a national/global disaster, countries relying on imported/exported food can be caught short when supplies dry up. Having locally grown food means that invariably you will have a good annual supply of food, but if a disaster strikes your area, you can still rely on imported food if needed. However, if you originally rely on imported food and disaster strikes, there will not be enough locally produced food to keep everyone fed.
6) The reduced time between picking/killing and consuming the produce means that fewer nutrients will be lost from the food, making the food better for you/more nutritious.
7) Local food also preserves genetic diversity – widely grown produce varieties are selected for their quick ripening, large fruit bearing or visually pleasing etc. properties, slowly pushing out the less ‘favourable’ varieties that could be lost over time.
The re-growth of local butchers, bakers, dairymen, fish mongers, greengrocers and the like will keep the focus local and prices will be lower due to lower transport costs. The main appeal of a supermarket is that every item you could need would be under one roof, but if a large barn or empty warehouse was converted into a market-hall, every item would be available in the same building, requiring only one trip a week to get all groceries.
Further green ideas can then be implemented, such as responsibly sourced local paper bags, lift sharing to the markets or a market shuttle bus to maintain the respobsibility and sustainability of this idea.
Obviously, there are many more factors affecting the decision of a town/city/country to change to this way of life, and with the majority of people living in urban areas, supermarkets seem to be the only place to buy produce, but spare/waste land, excess garden space could be used to help grow locally available food, which can then be sold at smaller markets or high street shops, or in a supermarket type market building like suggested above.
It is becoming increasingly important that we as humans are becoming more responsible in many aspects of our life, and by simply reverting to a tried and tested method of feeding the nation that has been phased out by supermarkets and recent shopping trends, we can greatly improve our green credentials as a village, town, country or continet.
Posted on May 21, 2013, in Sustainability and tagged agriculture, Carbon footprint, Egypt, England, Food, Local food, market, Organic, Produce, Supermarket, United States. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.