Find Local Food

Reader Contribution by Megan E. Phelps
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Buying meat, dairy products and produce from local farmers is a great green choice, and as an added bonus, it usually tastes better, too! That’s because when you buy locally, you can get the freshest possible food. Fragile produce, such as perfectly ripe tomatoes or strawberries, simply doesn’t travel well. If you want truly ripe produce, your best bet is to grow it yourself, or buy from a local farmer. 

Shopping locally greatly reduces the amount of energy needed to transport food from the farm to your table. It also gives you many more options than you can find in the typical grocery store and much more information about the products you’re buying. For example, if you want to buy pork from a local source, you can request all kinds of specific cuts of meat, and you can also ask the farmer questions about how the animals were raised. In many cases, you can even visit the farm! The same goes for fruits and vegetables — your local farmers will have a large number of unusual and delicious varieties of tomatoes, apples, beans, salad greens and much more.

So how do you find this local food? It can be as simple as locating your nearest farmers market, but many other options are available, including community-supported agriculture (CSA) programs — which are like a subscription service for vegetables — and direct, on-farm sales. Your local grocery store or natural foods co-op will frequently offer some locally grown options. However, some terrific tools are also available online that can make your search for local food even simpler.

A great place to start is Local Harvest. This excellent online directory helps you find local farmers, farmers markets, community-supported agriculture programs, meat processors, natural foods stores, restaurants that use local ingredients, and more. Just enter your location and you’ll find thorough information for the closest available options. Looking for a specific ingredient? You can search that way, too.

Another good online source is the Eat Well Guide. In addition to a searchable directory of local food options, you can also easily download local food guides for different cities and states. For example, if you’re planning a trip to Dallas, Boston, Phoenix or other U.S. cities, you can go to the site and quickly download a PDF with a listing of farmers markets, local bakeries, restaurants that feature local ingredients, and other fun places you might want to eat during your trip. Planning a major road trip? You can download guides for each state you’ll visit, or create your own personalized travel guide.

This blog is part of the MOTHER EARTH NEWS guide Find the Best Green Products and Services

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