Keep an eye out for local foods the next time you visit a grocery store. These homegrown alternatives to industrial goods are healthier for the environment, help small-town farmers earn a living and usually taste better too. Supporting agriculturists within your region can change the food industry as you know it by shining a spotlight on small initiatives.
Local foods will become more accessible by growing in popularity and demand. People will have an array of options for sustainable, organic eats instead of processed meals. A food overhaul is necessary to escape the hold of unhealthy eating and global pollution, but it requires small agriculture to succeed.
Support Local Communities
Community Supported Agriculture allows individuals to sign up for a program supplying fresh local produce in exchange for monetary support of farmers. You get food straight from the source while ensuring farmers secure enough funds to keep their goods on shelves. CSA requires you to buy a share of the farm production — you receive the same benefits and risks as the growers. Both sides receive what they seek, and the farmers get a safety net in case the harvest fails.
Some producers start farming cooperatives, which enable mid-sized farmers to sell their products without getting pushed to the wayside in the industrial rush. Big distributors don’t always want to work with small or mid-sized farms, but they’re more willing to if they’re part of a larger group. These cooperatives are the reason you see some of your favorite brands on the shelves today — farmers would struggle to produce goods without them. These groups range in size from small gatherings to huge organizations.
When you buy food made within these co-ops, every farmer shares the profit. Many agriculturists enjoy more benefits in group-based efforts than they do from farming alone.
Encourage Improved Automation
Many small farmers can’t afford the expensive equipment industrial farms have. They don’t always need equipment of this large caliber, but other useful technologies remove much of the risk of modern farming. A subset of farming called precision agriculture lets farmers use drones, automated vehicles and radio technology to grow crops and raise livestock. These technologies can spell the difference between a failed season and a fruitful crop yield.
Buying from local farms — and encouraging all your acquaintances to do the same — can provide them with the funds they need to upgrade their equipment. Even owning a simple generator can mean total success or failure for a farmer. Power outages on small farms can endanger livestock because they can’t survive for long without mechanical components sustaining them. Chickens tend to live in close quarters with tightly regulated heating and feed and water supply — without proper regulation, they die.
Implementing precision agriculture on a broad scale prevents errors like these and allows for healthier crops and animal products.
Reduce Fossil Fuel Pollution
Regional agriculturists don’t need to transport foods long distances, which they’d have to do with out-of-season produce. Lengthy transports require large trucks that absorb and output tons of diesel, releasing more greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Growers also spray transported vegetables with preservatives and other chemicals to keep them fresh on the long journey, which is a health and food quality concern for many. Buying from the local farmers market ensures fresher and minimally treated goods.
On-road diesel vehicles caused 47% of transportation deaths related to pollution in 2015. Fossil fuel pollution is a major issue that doesn’t just chip away at the ozone layer — it causes immediate harm to those who encounter it. However, you and others can slow this problem by steering away from imported food and purchasing seasonal eats. If you want to keep eating your favorites after the season ends, preserve them by canning or freezing them.
Many farms must grow specific crops to help them raise other vegetables because they generate fertile soil. Plants of this nature include fava beans, peas and radishes. Unfortunately, these options also tend to be less popular goods in stores and markets, forcing farmers to replace them with less lucrative plants. Opt for these vegetables on your next shopping trip — they’re necessary for good soil and help farmers produce healthy harvests.
You’re likely to find an array of unfamiliar produce by trying more local foods instead of exclusively generic types. You regularly buying these unique items will allow farmers to grow more of them, heightening the diversity of their crops. A variety of plants and livestock creates better soil and more options for local shoppers.
Local Agriculture Provides Endless Benefits
The food industry needs to make some significant changes to be more farmer- and consumer-friendly. Luckily, these possibilities aren’t far off. Spread the word about purchasing homegrown foods, and try the movement for yourself! Farmers will appreciate your contributions to the cause.
Emily is a sustainability and eco-friendly living blogger.