Why buy local?

We’ve got seven good reasons.

1. Locally grown food tastes better and is better for you.

Food grown in your own community was probably picked within the past day or two. It’s crisp, sweet and loaded with flavor. Produce flown or trucked in from California, Florida, Chile or Holland is, quite understandably, much older. Several studies have shown that the average distance food travels from farm to plate is 1,500 miles. In a week-long (or more) delay from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality. Food that is frozen or canned soon after harvest is actually more nutritious than some “fresh” produce that has been on the truck or supermarket shelf for a week. Locally grown food, purchased soon after harvest, retains its nutrients.

2. Local food preserves genetic diversity.

In the modern industrial agricultural system, varieties are chosen for their ability to ripen simultaneously and withstand harvesting equipment; for a tough skin that can survive packing and shipping; and for an ability to have a long shelf life in the store. Only a handful of hybrid varieties of each fruit and vegetable meet those rigorous demands, so there is little genetic diversity in the plants grown. Local farms, in contrast, grow a huge number of varieties to provide a long season of harvest, an array of eye-catching colors, and the best flavors. Many varieties are heirlooms, passed down from generation to generation, because they taste good. These old varieties contain genetic material from hundreds or even thousands of years of human selection; they may someday provide the genes needed to create varieties that will thrive in a changing climate.

3. Local food supports local farm families and businesses.

The wholesale prices that farmers get for their products are low, often near the cost of production. Local farmers and businesses that sell directly to consumers cut out the middleman and get full retail price for their food, which helps both farm families and local businesses stay where they are, doing the work they love. The money that is spent with local farmers and small businesses all stay close to home and is reinvested with other businesses and services in your community. Every dollar spent generates twice as much for the local economy.

4. Local food builds community.

When you buy direct from the farmer, you are re-establishing a time-honored connection between the eater and the grower. Knowing the farmers gives you insight into the seasons, the weather, and the miracle of raising food. In many cases, it gives you access to a farm where your children and grandchildren can go to learn about nature and agriculture. Relationships built on understanding and trust can thrive. Participation with the local community creates a food hub so local farmers can combine efforts in distribution of foods and sell products to UMaine in the volume a large university would require.

5. Local food preserves open space & supports a clean environment while benefiting wildlife.

When you buy locally grown food, you’re doing something proactive to preserve our working landscape and environment. Small local farms are usually run by farmers who live on their land and work hard to preserve it. When farmers get paid more for their products by marketing locally, they’re less likely to have to sell their farm land for development. A well-managed family farm is a place where the resources of fertile solid and clean water are valued. good stewards of the land grow cover crops to prevent erosion and help combat global warming. According to some estimates, farmers who practice conservation tillage could sequester 12-14% of the carbon emitted by vehicles and industry. In addition, the habitat of a farm, the patchwork of fields, meadows, woods, ponds, and buildings is the perfect environment for many beloved species of wildlife, including birds, butterflies, herons, bats, rabbits, deer and other species.

6. Local food keeps your taxes in check.

According to several studies, farms contribute more in taxes than they require in services, whereas suburban development costs more than it generates in taxes. On average, for every $1 in revenue raised by residential development, government must spend $1.17 on services, thus requiring higher taxes of all taxpayers. For $1 of revenue raised by a farm, forest or open space, government spends just $0.34 on services that keep taxes lower. That’s quite the difference.

7. Local food is about the future.

By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, and that future generations will have access to nourishing, flavorful, and abundant foods. The environment will stay healthy; the habitat will remain intact; and the community will be supporting one another in a variety of ways. UMaine DIning is committed to working with local farmers, local businesses and other colleges, along with mainline distributors to increase local produce and products into our market, keeping both Maine and our community strong.

Buy local food. Sustain local farms.

This comprehensive list comes from Growing for Market, www.growingformarket.com.

For more information on Maine produce, http://www.getrealmaine.com.