Farmer's Market in Oak Ridge, TN on 5/13/09 - Strawberry Line.
As our culture begins to talk about being “green,” or environmentally friendly, we are learning to understand how our every action relates to the environment, including our personal hygiene products, our cleaning habits, our recycling tendencies, our lack of public transportation, and our consumption of oil and electricity.
Yet there has been a glaring absence in this mainstream, national discussion: food. Every human on the planet needs food for survival – and that equals quite a lot of food. I am currently reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and it has opened my eyes about the importance of food in our green lifestyles. I will be discussing this book much more in future articles, but right now I want to use it to stress the importance of buying local food. Local food meaning food grown within your county or, at the very most, something that you could find grown or made and packaged within a hour’s drive of your home.
Did you know that that each one of us in the U.S. consumes 400 gallons of oil a year for our food? While 20% of that oil goes directly into the plant growth from seed to harvest, the other 80% is only for transportation. As one-fifth of those 400 gallons is used on the farm, most of that comes from fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides because they are made from oil. So it is important to remember that you can eliminate almost 80 gallons of oil a year if you purchase organic foods. How can you eliminate the other 320 gallons of oil a year? Buy locally.
It is shocking to realize that that each food item in a typical U.S. meal has traveled an average of 1,500 miles. So if we eat 3 different items for dinner, that’s an average of 4,500 miles our meal has traveled to get into our stomachs. And I don’t know about you but I know that I’m not at my best quality after I’ve traveled 1,500 miles – can you imagine what that does to the taste of our food? Not to mention the nutrition. So if you buy local (and organic if it is available locally), you are not only saving at least 320 gallons of oil a year, but you are eating food that is better for you and tastes wonderful because it is fresh and because it has been picked when it is ripe – fully developed and nutritiously whole. Here’s another great fact from Animal, Vegetable, and Miracle: if every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would save 1.1 million barrels of oil every week.
Now that you’re inspired to find local food your quest begins to find local farmers. One of the easiest ways to buy locally is at your local farmer’s markets. To find one near you, go to www.ams.usda.gov/farmersmarkets. Other ideas include roadside stands, buyer’s clubs and community supported agriculture (CSA). Go to www.localharvest.org and www.csacenter.org to find out more about your local foods.
I’ve supplied links to some of the local farmers markets around East Tennessee:
Farmers' Association for Retail Marketing (Kingston Pike Location) in Knoxville, TN on Tuesdays and Fridays from 3 - 6 pm located at 3457 Kingston Pike at Cherokee Blvd.
Have a great time exploring these wonderful local food markets and get to know the farmers who are growing your food. If you know of any other local farmer’s markets (or local farms where you can buy local produce), please post them on the comment section to share with all of us reading this blog.