This harvest season, as the weather cools and stores fill with the bounty of the season, we at Epicurus want to challenge our readers to an amazing test of courage and shopping.
The question is whether you can reduce the volume of food you buy that’s been shipped more than 100 miles, including the distance you may drive it from the store to your kitchen?
Why the challenge? Well, for one thing, despite the fact that tens of thousands of local farms produce outstanding food and food products very close to home, most of us buy food that has been shipped vast distances, even though it’s the same food. Candidly, we think this is wrong.Â We ignore fresh for preserved, and dismiss quality for chemicals.
Obviously, some foods like bananas and pineapple, fish and exotic foods may not be locally grown, but before you buy those apples, pears, pumpkins, tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots, you should consider the fact that most of them are grown very close by, but supermarkets will more often stock from wholesale suppliers who import or cross-country ship those items.
We have been guilty of the same sins. But now, we at Epicurus have found that it takes very little effort to figure out what can be bought locally versus shipped long distance. We also found with little surprise, that the locally grown food, whether it is meat, produce or prepared foods tastes wonderful, fresh and just like the flavor we remember from our youth.
A food scientist we work with pointed out that most commercially grown produce, for example, is picked before it is ripe on the vine, tree or bush, in order that it may not rot in shipping. Tomatoes, for example, are picked green, and as we already know, treated with gas to change the color from green to pinkish orange. Anyone who shops for produce can see the difference between typical tomatoes and locally grown vine-ripened ones.Â What we collectively dismiss is the fact that most of the vine-ripened tomatoes in our stores are shipped from Holland, Italy, Spain, Colombia or Guatemala and are still picked too early.Â However, locally grown vine-ripened are available in season.
While the cost to ship across the oceans is cheaper than to ship it from a farm 50 miles out of town, two factors should be considered in choosing which is better. First is flavor – where the locally grown product is fresher, and reaches maturity naturally, it will taste much better. Second, and this is equally important, is the carbon foot-print for the items. Despite the increased cost of shipping, there’s less carbon per item grown locally. If more of us met this challenge, the carbon emissions from ships and diesel-burning trucks will be considerably lower, overall.
Our friends in Europe have been shopping differently than Americans or Canadians for centuries. They are more likely to shop at the local markets where farmers and producers sell directly to the consumers than to purchase basics at their local supermarket (of which they have very few compared to these shores).
A little food for thought as Halloween and Thanksgiving approach – those delightful pumpkins found at the supermarkets were probably shipped internationally, along with the Indian corn that decorates your door or your table. Yet within a short drive from home, you can find local farm markets, or specialist markets where these and hundreds of others delicious items can be found.
So meet our challenge, and find some Food With An Address – a local address. You can frequently find resources to local farmers and farm markets at your state or province agriculture office. Look online and be surprised how wonderful your food can be, and how much safer. Remember, you can often find organic food, grown without antibiotics, pesticides or preservatives locally grown.