Agricultural production utilises 21% of food production energy, approximately 2.1 quadrillions Btu of energy annually. This energy goes into the growth and harvest process and raises livestock for meat and poultry.
The US-based Organic Consumers Association found that the approximate world diet uses 1600 litres of fossil fuels annually, and about 256 litres are spent transporting the food.
Food is usually transported through trucks, making about 70.5% of food transportation. About 17% of food is sent through railways, another 8% is sent through shipping, and 4.5% is transported via air.
Lastly, the production, harvesting, transporting, and packaging of food produces enormous greenhouse gases, more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
All these facts tell a lot about the energy consumption in food production. Producing food has become polluting, expensive and primarily inorganic as it is sprayed with pesticides, fertilisers and chemicals to make them ripen quickly. It is not healthy and also has a negative environmental impact.
Opting for local produce has not one but multiple benefits. Many environmental organisations have brought this issue to the forefront, generating a widespread shift towards locally grown food. This has grown into a recognisable environmental movement, and the people who propagate ‘going local’ in terms of food choices are called Lovacores.
Lovacores are those people who opt for locally grown food that is in season. ‘locally grown’ implies that the food is grown in the region and is not imported from other states or countries. The concept is based on distance. Many lovacores prefer to buy food from within their community than from the region or country.
This kind of food consumption is popularly known as the 100-mile diet, which promotes buying and eating food grown, manufactured and produced within 100 miles reach of the consumers. Also, people are satisfied to know where their food is coming from, and it also boosts local industries and farmers.
Environmental benefits of consuming locally grown food
Fewer food miles- saves fuel
One of the most important advantages of buying locally grown vegetables and fruits is reducing your food miles. Since Shopping locally means purchasing goods produced in the local community, it saves transportation costs and fossil fuels.
Compared to buying local, when you buy from grocery stores, the food we purchase has already travelled more than 1500 to 2000 miles to reach the dinner table. If we decrease these miles by opting for local food, we reduce our environmental impact on food.
Local food is healthy and also less energy-intensive. It does not lead to enormous carbon footprints when food travels long distances by air, railways or shipways. Going local saves on fuel consumption and reduces air pollution as there is no requirement for shipping facilities, packing or refrigeration.
Local food is readily available at all times, and you can get to eat everything in season. Also, local businesses are run for the community, and it is also convenient for them to bring their food to the shops as the consumers live nearby.
A farmers market allows people to get enormous homegrown food. On the other hand, the big grocery shops and department stores are not located in the vicinity but far away as they need space for parking and storage. Also, the food available is usually pleasing to the eyes but not to the stomach.
Most people try to avoid blemished fruit or vegetable from the local market and buy the perfect ones from big stores. Nature never grows anything in perfect shape and size. So the perfect product is what you should avoid as it is not grown naturally and some fruits are even grease or polished with oil to produce a shiny surface to attract customers in these big departmental stores.
Eat local- fresh and truly healthy
Going local allows you to relish fresh produce that is also highly nutritious. Most local produce is 100% organic, free from hormone injections and chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Apart from being beneficial to our health, they are also eco-friendly and sustainable.
When the food grows without toxins, it also retains the soil’s natural fertility as sharecropping, crop rotation and sustainable agriculture is practised. Also, since food is directly brought from the farm, it leads to less wastage and reduced waste generation as it does not spoil nor rot, as in the case of food that has to travel miles.
Maintains the ecology and biodiversity of a region
By buying local, we indirectly protect the region’s land and biodiversity. Supporting the region’s farmers means they won’t sell their lands to developers and continue producing food. If land would go into the hands of developers, it could be devastating for the region’s flora and fauna as big developing companies are mostly concerned about their economic profits. So they buy non-profitable farms and imply environmentally draining practices.
When lands remain in the hands of the community, it is sustained by collective and sustainable practices, and mostly small communities are self-sufficient, so we should support local farms and buy their products whenever possible.
Secondly, many crops use modern commercial technologies from different genetic strands. In the case of small-scale, localised agriculture, farmers can use numerous types of crops with different colours and can preserve the genetic diversity of the produce. Even in the case of livestock, most animals can be raised on a small farm that enhances the region’s biodiversity while maintaining ecological balance. This is because the animals and crops grow naturally without being injected with growth hormones.
Supports the local workforce
Another reason locally produced food is eco-friendly is that it supports the local economy; otherwise, if locals are not employed, they would have to migrate elsewhere, possibly to urban regions, to get decent work. It would increase their living expenditure and increase carbon footprints, fuel, and energy consumption.
Local food producers can run because of consumer demand only. Without any demand, these businesses and farms would not sustain themselves. Hence, supporting the local economy means generating local employment within the community. This is less energy-intensive and entirely sustainable.
Shopping and buying locally grown food also foster community building and cultural diversity. This is because local farmers and local communities are closely connected within themselves and with their buyers. This also develops a sense of belonging and togetherness in the area. Also, a well-knit and independent community is sustainable as it is self-sufficient and does not create much waste.
Empowers the Consumer
Nowadays, most people are concerned about where their food comes from and how it is produced. Buying locally grown produce allows people to answer all these questions. They can know and develop their food choices by exploring all the food options. Most importantly, it is excellent for community children who learn about ecology, sustainable and eco-friendly farming practices.
Where can you get local produce?
Local produce can be bought from a farmer’s market that is usually set up once or twice a week and is loaded with week’s fresh produce. It may vary according to climate and seasons but is usually organised regularly in small communities. You can get fresh fruits and vegetables, non-processed, fresh meat in this market.
Community Supported Agriculture programs
Community Supported programs are common in some villages in the West. Here you can become a community member by paying for a share of the product such as eggs, meat etc. Members pay for their share initially and then take the food after it is harvested. You can get your share from a communal location along with other members.
Also, there are many roadside stands and on-site shops that consumers can visit. Gleaning programs have come into vogue wherein people can take the leftover crops and other products after it is harvested.
Many local grocery shops have dairy and farm produce of local farms, and they are labelled to indicate that they are local foods. Many grocery businesses these days are going for local food.
Local Food Delivery
Some businesses work with the region’s and deliver fresh produce to consumers in exchange for a subscription fee. The profits go to the farmers, and it also encourages the growth of local industries and businesses. The food is delivered in a cardboard box, fresh from the farm and is natural.
Locally-grown food is eco-friendly than those foods that are transported over long distances. Apart from being sustainable, it is healthy and nutritious, free from chemicals and does not have an enormous carbon footprint. Hence, one should opt for local produce whenever possible.
Another great idea is to try and produce something in your kitchen garden or a pot on your balcony. If you cannot grow fruits or vegetables, you can use stater small by growing chillies, tomatoes or lemons. These can be planted in a pot, too, and this way, you can be a little more eco-friendly.