Friday, June 19, 2009

Eating Local - Where Does Your Food Come From?

With the recent interest in “going green”, more food shoppers have been asking where their food is grown or produced. In Pennsylvania, the next months will be the peak growing season and local produce can be found at farmer’s markets and grocery stores. A surge of new community gardens and home gardens has also increased accessibility to home grown produce. There is no definition of local foods. USDA's recent research defined local as 12 miles from the consumers. Many other local designations extend to 200 miles from the consumers. USDA has several ongoing research projects under the title, The Economics of Local Foods and is drafting a primer, Eating Local, Concepts, Impacts and Issues found at These projects include studying the feasibility of including local foods in school meals and extending farmer’s markets year round. Marketing “local” has been shown to attract customers over the ‘organic” labeling. These designations are not exclusive of each other and local food can be organically grown or not. Is local food healthier? There is no research to confirm this. However, local foods support sustainability – providing income for farming and food production within your communities. Community and home gardens allow consumers to eat “just picked” produce, containing the freshest flavors and nutrients possible. Local farmer’s markets and CSA’s provide a personal connection between the food producers and the consumers, which has many benefits. These include family involvement, a greater variety of produce being eaten and greater community interest and support of food production. Consumers may also desire certain production methods used ( range)and conversations with the farmers can determine this. Less travel for foods reduces the “carbon footprint”of getting the food to you. Most of our winter produce is grown in Florida or California, or even out of the country. As you head to the food market this week, look to see where your food comes from – most foods contain country of origin labels. You may also want to include a farmer’s market visit. If you are unsure where to find a market, these can be found at If you have a garden or find a bargain on local produce, you may want to attend a food preservation class to save your excess for winter months. Contact your Penn State Cooperative Extension office for dates and times, Please send us a comment if you have some more ideas for supporting local food production

No comments: