“Local”, “Beyond Organic”, “Regenerative”, “Sustainable”….the farm industry uses all kinds of “buzz” words to catch the attention of customers or potential customers. It can be somewhat confusing to a consumer but it is a necessary practice to use the words to capture the farm’s ideals and practices in a fast, effective way. So what does it all mean and why is buying local so important to our health and our communities?
The Local Food Market is growing tremendously. According to the Organic Trade Association, organic sales in the U.S. totaled a new record of $49.4 billion in 2017, up 6.4 percent from the previous year. People are becoming aware of conventional farm practices and want something better. They want what is the healthiest choice available to them. Locally sourced, beyond organic means the farmers are going above and beyond the standards of the National Organic Program.
What it means to the customer who buys from a local, regenerative, beyond organic farm:
Small to mid-scale local farms are generally regenerative, opting for more sustainable practices. This means they are building soil quality and regenerating its natural resources, diversifying, growing a variety of crops, rotationally grazing their livestock, and using natural pest management. The soil is full of nutrients!
Meat, eggs, milk, and other animal products are often from heritage breed animal that are free-roaming on green pastures, living happy, healthy lives versus animals living inhumanely. Animals never getting outdoors have high levels of stress hormones. They can actually be fed with GMO feed with additives such as anti-depressants and caffeine, all of which can be digested by us.
The food is more nutritious due to varieties, often heirloom, picked at a ripened stage versus unripe produce that is a variety chosen for long shelf life and long ship times.
Local is good for a region’s economy. For every dollar spent, 48 cents is kept within the local economy versus 14 cents from national/international companies.
A lot of food, including organic, is imported from China and other countries whose guidelines for organic are different than the US in safety and certification processes. The food also has to be irradiated before entering our country, undoing any benefits of being organic.
It can be a challenge to get all of your food locally. A farm passionate about its regenerative, sustainable ideals will encourage farm tours and show the public first hand, often through social media, what they are doing daily to implement their ideals. It can take some time and energy to build a relationship with a local farmer but it can have amazing benefits to your health and the health of your local economy.