The only reasons why I do anything are because it is fun now, it allows things to be fun later, or it ensures that things will continue being fun. Eating? Fun now. Working? Fun later when I eat what I bought with my paycheck. Shoveling the walk? Ensures that when I haul my groceries into the house, I don’t slip, fall, and ruin the fun of eating them.
So, obviously, the main reason why I’d buy local food is because it’s fun in so many ways:
1. It’s fun to know your farmer. If you buy food directly from a local farmer, you can strike up a little business friendship with him or her. Then you will have, perhaps, someone to chat with at the farmers market. Or, perhaps, the occasional invitation to visit the farm of your CSA grower. For sure you will have the inside scoop about what’s fresh this week, what’s new, what’s plentiful, and what’s about to run out for the season. Sometimes your connection with the farmer can get you good deals on bulk purchases. Sometimes the farmer has just a little of something special and only offers it to really good customers. It’s fun to be one of those customers.
2. It’s fun to eat fresh food. The less distance your food traveled to get in your kitchen, the fresher it can be when you cook it. You can even use those aforementioned market chats to find out when the cabbage was picked, when the egg was laid, or when the chicken was slaughtered. And, of course, nothing is more local than what you grow yourself. You can pick from your own garden moments before you eat! Transport distance? Food miles? Forget about them.
3. It’s fun to understand what you’re eating. Worried about humane slaughter practices for that chicken? Concerned about what kind of life the pig had before it became bacon? Nervous about what was sprayed on your apples and when? It’s easier to keep track of all those things when you buy local. The more times food is sold and resold, the more times it is transported and the more difficult it becomes to track its origins. If you know where your food grew, you can find out what happens on that farm. You can even use the aforementioned farm visits to go see for yourself.
4. It’s fun to connect your diet to the seasons. When you eat what’s local, you eat what’s in season. Your meals transform with the changing panoply of ingredients. There is no time to get tired of anything; it’s gone in a few months. There is no need to be too upset, because you will see that food again next year. The seasons are an ancient cycle that has dictated human arrangements for tens of thousands of years. It’s only been in the last century or so that refrigerated transportation and reliable preservation made it possible for us to divorce our cuisine completely from the seasons. It’s fun to slow down, look around, and reconnect to the patterns of the earth that ultimately sustains us all.
5. It’s fun to support your local economy. When you buy locally, more of the money tends to stay where you live—about twice as much as if you shopped at chain stores. That means income for your neighbors. It means tax revenues for your state and city. It ultimately means stronger schools, better law enforcement, better roads, better parks, better public works, and all the other good things that come when a community has steady jobs for its citizens.
6. It’s fun to have a healthier planet. Even putting aside the debate of how food transport contributes to global warming, there are environmental advantages to buying from local small farms. By virtue of their size, they cannot use chemical fertilizers and pesticides, or generate farm runoffs, on the scale that massive agribusiness does. And many, if not most, would not want that anyway. Small farmers vary widely in experience, philosophy, income, ethnicity, and any other factor you can imagine. One thing they have in common, though, is care for their land.
In fact, the 2008 International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) spotlighted the importance of small farmers worldwide. According to IAASTD’s report, small operations –not industrial farms—are the ones who will ultimately feed the world. Small farmers stand poised to develop sustainable practices, preserve biodiversity, protect national resources, and adapt to local growing conditions.
Someday, if enough people and governments care enough about our earth, the policies that favor large agribusiness will give way and small farmers will get a leg up. But there’s no need to sit around waiting for that. You can start to turn the tide right now simply by purchasing locally produced food.
After all, which is more fun: waiting for the world to change, or changing it yourself?