Over recent years, the gap between farm and table has grown astronomically. In the past, most people had no idea that the produce they buy at their local grocery store often comes from halfway across the world. Or, that the eggs they’re eating were laid by chickens who never saw the light of day.
Fortunately, now more than ever, the demand for locally grown food is on the rise, as is our interest in knowing where our food originates. In fact, many restaurants, including Eclectic Café in Orillia, are centering their entire menus around ingredients they receive daily from local farms.
“Now more than ever, the pandemic has shown us how unstable our Canadian food supply can be when we rely on food coming from all around the world,” says Melanie Robinson, owner of Eclectic Café. “We should shop our local markets and local farmers first, then rely on provincial farmers, then Canadian farmers. This shows our government where we want our dollars to go.”
As we move into the colder months, we won’t have year-round access to farm fresh produce like we do in the summer and fall—but it’s still important to be mindful of where your next meal is coming from. There are so many good reasons you should ask where your food is grown and harvested. We’ve put together a list of why choosing local is choosing better.
Local food just tastes better… and it’s very likely more nutritious. At a farmer’s market, most local produce has been picked within the last 24 hours, ensuring it is ripe, fresh and at its peak nutrient-density, while most produce you find at the supermarket was likely picked days or weeks before it arrived on the shelf. As soon as a food is harvested its nutrient content begins to deteriorate, especially vitamins C, E, and A.
The mind-mouth connection. It’s not just what you eat—the who, where, when, how and why counts, too. When you shop locally you are directly connected to the food you eat; knowing and picturing who produced it, what farm it came from, and exactly how it got to your table. It’s the taste of your mom’s homemade tomato sauce versus the jar of sauce you grab at your nearest grocery store.
When you eat locally, you eat with the seasons. Before the modern grocery store, humans simply ate what was available to us at that time of year. In summer, our bodies require cooling foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and berries to help us handle the heat, while in the dark, cold days of winter we need rich and warming high-fat foods, root vegetables, and fermented foods.
Eating well can get kind of boring. How many varieties of fruit and veg can you find at your local grocery store? One of each, likely. Eating seasonally forces you to try new foods and be more creative in the kitchen.
Buying local shortens the distribution chain. Sourcing food directly from the farm means there is less waste produced, less packaging from transportation, shipping and consumer marketing, and less environmental waste from pollution.
Every time you buy from a local farmer, it’s a chance to ask questions. You can learn about their farming practices and gain a better understanding of your food. As a consumer you have a choice to connect with your food sources and ensure ongoing food sustainability and security in our area.
You’re supporting local business. When you buy food in the grocery store most of the cost you incur goes to the transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration, and marketing of that food, and not necessarily to the farmers themselves. When you are buying from one of our local farmers and producers, you’re supporting your local community, and your money goes back into producing more local food and products for you.
Eating locally encourages diversification of local agriculture and crop variety. This, in turn, reduces the reliance on monoculture; single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils. The reality is that our food is only as nutrient-dense as the soil in which it is grown; although strawberries are known to contain high levels of vitamin C, these levels are heavily dependent on the quality of the soil in which they are grown, and their level of freshness.
Farmers’ Markets Ontario
Ontario Farm Fresh Marketing Association