The New Organic: Eat Locally?

Did you know that 80% of all tomatoes harvested in the U.S are picked while green?

Did you know that, while 40 cents of every food dollar spent by consumers in 1910 went back to the farmers, in 1997 only 7 cents of every food dollar spent went to farmers?

Did you know that North American produce typically travels a minimum distance of 1,500 miles to get from where it’s grown to your plate?

Did you know that, of the 30,000 edible plant species in the world, 90% of the world’s food comes from just 20 species? (All from the 100 Mile Diet stats page.)

I didn’t know any of this–until I started looking. And the more I look, the more eating locally looks better and better.

“Organic is great for the environment and the health of workers and I’m all for it…But the first priority is buying local, supporting economies around you, and trying to keep local farms resisting industrialized farming and real estate pressures.” (Corby Kummer, senior editor and food columnist for The Atlantic Monthly and author of “The Pleasures of Slow Food” (Chronicle).

Alton Brown of the Food Network casts
his vote in favor of eating locally, on his blog, What Every Good Cook Should Know. Environment aside, local foods simply taste better and are safer for us, he says. (he cites recent e. coli outbreaks in spinach).

Not only is it better for you, it’s better for the environment. According to The New American Dream, “Buying local food not only helps local farmers thrive, it reduces energy consumption. Estimates on how long the average food travels from pasture to plate range from 1200 to 2500 miles. A lot of energy is expended freezing, refrigerating, and trucking that food around. Eating locally grown food means less fossil fuel burned in preparation and transport.” See full text here.

Hooked? Check out the 100 Mile Diet’s 13 Reasons to Eat Locally.

Of course, the real question is: How does this work for a busy family with small (picky!) children! The first step is to hit all the farmer’s markets popping up (see here for a list of local-to the DC Metro area-markets). Or, consider supporting a local farm or collection of farms buy purchasing a share in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) venture, where the produce comes to you. Once you’re enjoying the fruits–and veggies–of eating locally, why not explore local dairy, egg, meat, and poultry options?

Is eating locally easy? Of course not, if “easy” means “available from a little window without setting foot in a kitchen or even getting out of my car.” Just as eating healthy in general isn’t always easy. But, for us and for our kids, isn’t it worth it?


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