It’s not easy to make our food supplies more local, and it’s important that we begin with a solid foundation in why doing so is important, and perhaps even necessary. There are dozens of good arguments for why it makes sense to grow and eat locally. Among our favorites are:
Local food supports local farmers.
Farming in western Washington is a bit precarious at the moment. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the state’s lost more than half of its farmland since the 1950s, and the number of farms and the amount of land in agriculture continue to decline. The average age of farmers, a key indicator of recruitment for the next generation, continues to climb past 58 years old. Key agricultural sectors, like dairy, are facing global competition, high costs and unstable prices. At the same time, there are signs of growth in the industry, particularly the thriving markets for specialty crops like raspberries and close-to-the-city produce. By buying and eating local food, we put money directly into the hands of local farmers, ensuring a better future for them individually and for the industry as a whole.
Local food supports local farmland.
There are about one million acres of farmland in western Washington. In addition to supplying food, this land provides the region with salmon and wildlife habitat, groundwater recharge, flood storage, scenic landscapes, and many other benefits, all of which can easily be lost if farmland is lost to development. When we eat locally, we support a sustainable future for farmland in western Washington.
Local food contributes to our health and happiness.
Many of the nutrients in fresh food begin to degrade as soon as the food is harvested, and decreasing the time and steps involved in bringing food from the farm to the table will ensure that our food is nutritious. And as anyone who has bitten into a local strawberry or heirloom tomato knows, fresh food tastes good.
Local food ensures us of a dependable supply of food in the future.
As the world population climbs to nine billion and energy costs continue to rise, many of the people and places elsewhere in the world that grow food for us today may need to grow food for local people instead. While we are blessed with excellent farmland in the U.S., much of it is used to grow food for export, and the total land dedicated to production of fresh, raw foods has continued to decline. Eating locally and supporting local farmers are good ways to ensure that we have dependable supplies of nutritious food in an uncertain future.