Minnesotans love locally grown produce. In fact, we’re ranked number 11 in the nation on the U.S. 2015 Locavore Index—not bad for a state with a relatively short growing season.
From the decade-strong locavore movement to popular farm-to-table restaurants, the emphasis on local continues to gain momentum. From supporting local farmers to improving your nutritional health, here are our top five reasons to add locally grown produce to your menu.
- Support Local Farmers. It feels good to support local farmers and families instead of big businesses. But there’s also a financial benefit to your community when you buy locally grown produce. Studies have found that taking out intermediaries between the farmer and the consumer allows more of each dollar to stay with farmers. Another study found that dollars spent at local restaurants and grocery stores had twice the impact on the local economy compared to typical restaurants and stores. Supporting local farmers makes your heart feel good—and helps improve the financial stability of local families.
- Please Your Taste Buds. Locally grown produce is bursting with flavor. Because the produce will reach the store in hours, farmers can pick it when it’s reached the perfect ripeness. (Produce that has to travel far is typically harvested early to factor in the time it takes to ship and distribute it.) Produce that’s picked at the perfect ripeness simply tastes better!
- Benefit from Healthy Food. When you eat locally grown produce, the shorter travel time between the farm and your plate means there’s been less time for the foods’ nutrients to diminish. According to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health, certain types of produce, such as tomatoes, contain more vitamin C when they’re allowed to ripen on the vine versus when they’re picked and allowed to ripen during transit.
- Discover New Favorites. When you focus on eating produce that’s in season, you just might make new, tasty discoveries. Because let’s face it—in Minnesota, our growing season is fairly short. Strawberries, green beans and fresh pea pods are here for a brief, sweet period of time. However, branching out from typical staples might lead you to discover relatively unknown locally grown produce, such as gold beets, purple carrots or charantais melons—delicious produce that may become new staples.
- Help the Environment. Eating local means helping the environment. Buying locally grown produce supports farmland and green space in your community. You help reduce carbon emissions when produce has a shorter distance to travel to reach the grocery store. You support diversified local agriculture. And when you buy organic produce, you’re helping reduce the use of harmful chemicals, pesticides, herbicides and conventional nitrogen fertilizers, which via conventional farm runoff make their way into our streams, rivers, and lakes.
Buying locally grown produce makes a lot of sense. You personally benefit from tasty, healthful foods. Your community benefits as dollars stay with the local economy. We all benefit by helping the environment. I say we move up on the locavore ranking—next year, let’s be number one.