The average distance that most American food travels to get to the dinner table is 1,500 miles. That is 1,500 miles of truck and plane emissions, of extra packaging to protect produce on its long journey, and of days in transport as the freshness and flavor slowly withers away. Buying local is not the easiest choice to make, especially for college students with limited funds and means of transportation, but any amount of effort put towards buying local produce has beneficial effects for the local economy and the environment.
A study conducted by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardener’s Association showed that if people in the United States shifted 1% of their purchases to local food instead of imported goods, American farmers would experience a 5% gain in income. Currently only about 7% of the money spent on food in America stays in its local community, while the rest goes to a complex system of transporters and packagers all over the country and overseas.
Individual communities becoming more self-sufficient and less dependant on the international economy can only have a positive outcome. It would make local economies less susceptible to fluctuations and crashes of the global market.
Local farming benefits the environment as well. Local transportation of food takes 17 times less Co2 in comparison with Co2 expended in the extra trucking, flying and refrigeration needed to ship food from all over the world into American supermarkets. Keeping farmland in America also preserves open fields that filter Co2 and produce oxygen, when these spaces may otherwise be converted to strip malls or parking lots.
An increased emphasis on buying locally also aids in preserving the unique personality of local businesses. This makes for a more pleasant working and shopping environment, creating more opportunities of personal interaction and community building.
Cities and towns with more local businesses and individual flair are also more likely to attract tourists, and farmer’s markets are bound to bring in health conscious individuals who are willing to pay a premium to buy their food from a good source.
But the fact remains that finding a reliable, affordable farmer’s market does take more effort than running down the street to the closest HEB or Walmart, and some people will not have the economic flexibility to do so. However, the more people choose to put in the extra time and money to buy local, the more the market will respond by providing more affordable local options to consumers in more convenient places.
Those that can should partake in visiting their local farmer’s market, so that those markets can stay in business, expand, and, possibly, be able to bring their prices down. This can only happen if all eligible consumers contribute to the effort. If consumers make that choice, they will be rewarded with food that is fresher and tastes better.