Farm to Table: Does Buying Locally Sourced Food Really Matter?

Farm to Table

You may have heard that locally foraged food is fresher and tastier, but what many don’t realize is just how many benefits there are that go beyond one’s belly. That’s why we’ve pooled together all the perks of harvesting and sourcing local food.

But perhaps the most shocking realization of all is that nearly 80 percent of Canadians are willing to pay a premium for locally grown produce–yet, only 25 percent actively follow through on it.

We talk a big game, but it’s time we put our money where our mouth is–literally. Here’s why you should buy locally sourced food and think twice about visiting the usual big box store.

But first, what is locally grown food?

Food is considered local when it’s grown and harvested within 100 miles of your home or the restaurant where it’s served. Unlike retail chains that use large commercial farms, local food is transported from farm to table over short distances.

You can find local food at farmers’ markets, local grocery, specialty, and health food stores, fruit stands, and even some larger grocery stores with a dedicated local foods section.

Health benefits to shopping and eating locally grown food

Who wouldn’t want a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle?

It’s not hard to see how locally grown food is gaining popularity across Canadian family households. Making the switch to include locally sourced foods in your diet comes down to better health.

1. Nutrient-packed food: Did you know that fruits and vegetables lose their nutritional value as soon as they leave the soil or tree? That means you’ll want to eat it as quickly as possible to absorb all the nutrients.

Food that isn’t picked close to home, like many big-box stores whose factories are thousands of miles away, will lose its ripeness before they get a chance to hit the store shelves and bins.

On the other hand, locally sourced produce is picked at ripeness and in season, maximizing flavour and creating a more nutritious eating experience. Not to mention, it can often land on your plate the same day it was picked. How convenient!

2. No pesticides and preservatives: Unlike large-scale commercial food producers, locally sourced produce often skips the use of pesticides, preservatives, or other harmful chemicals to keep its shelf life. Since transportation between production and distribution locations is quite short, locally grown food maintains its freshness better.

3. Better food safety: Mishandling and foodborne illnesses account for 420,000 fatalities each year and affect 600 million people, according to the World Health Organization. But when you buy locally grown food, there is less risk for contamination because of the size of their operations and decreased transport time.

Farmers and ranchers use smaller-scale production facilities in contrast to national retailers who depend on larger meat processing plants which are more frequently prone to outbreaks of E.coli, salmonella, and other bacteria.

Stimulate your local economy through locally grown food

Eating healthy isn’t just a trend, but a movement that’s here to last. And a big part of it has to do with its role in our economy.

1. Keeps prosperity local: Supporting local farmers and agricultural operations helps hardworking Canadians stay in business, find stable jobs, and create a positive feedback spending loop that enables everyone to thrive. For every $100 spent at a small business, $68 is circumvented back into the local economy.

2. Farmers cash in more profit: Buying local produce directly helps our farming economy as farmers retain more of their profit than retail giants who have more expensive transportation and distribution costs.

3. Challenges you to think outside your wallet: While shopping from local farmers may come with a higher price tag than the big-box stores, we need to challenge Canadians to consider factors beyond short-term savings when it’s within their means and focus on the bigger picture of building a sustainable community.

There’s no question that everybody wants bang for their buck, and it’s proven that the lowest everyday prices are what motivates Canadians the most in choosing a specific store to shop at. However, making a big difference to your local economy doesn’t necessarily mean chipping in big.

When it’s within your means, you can make small changes to your purchasing decisions, such as considering where you’re buying your food from, deciding the frequency in which you can afford to support local, and other ways to pay it forward like through word of mouth.

Maybe you’d like to buy local produce and meat once a month from an independent grocer. Or perhaps you want to try a new restaurant that uses a local supply chain. Whether you regularly support local businesses or use their services once and leave a positive review, starting small can create positive changes to your local economy.

Preserving the environment through eating locally grown food

1. Reduce your carbon footprint: Eating locally can eliminate up to seven percent of greenhouse gas emissions produced from unnecessary travel, storage, and refrigeration. Local farmers use smaller supply chains, which cut back on the amount of spoiled food in transit and wasted by retailers.

Although retail giants like Loblaw have recently implemented food rescue plans to divert the waste they produce (such as marking up food nearing its best before date with up to 50% discounts), there is still a lot of progress to be made across their supply chains for thousands of locations.

2. Encourage sustainable agriculture: Learning about local food systems allow consumers to better understand where their food comes from and demand a higher standard of excellence and ethics. Greater awareness about local farming promotes accountability and encourages local farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices that are kinder to the environment.

3. Protect biodiversity: Small farmers preserve biodiversity by implementing more sustainable farming techniques. Where industrial farms tend to practice monocropping–or growing a single crop on the same land year after year–local farmers avoid eroding soil by rotating crops and using different varieties of crops to maintain diversity.

Social benefits of buying local produce and farm-fresh ingredients

1. Help your neighbours: Invest in the community, friends, family, and neighbours you know, love, and trust over supporting corporate conglomerates that are often faceless and more focused on their bottom lines.

In 2021, Walmart pulled in a revenue of $566B, a 4.45% increase year over year, but still harbours complaints from its employees, who feel they aren’t provided fair wages and benefits.

2. Unify your community: Whether you’re sharing a meal with loved ones or getting to know the backstory behind what’s on your plate, local farmers promote connection. They cultivate long-lasting relationships between their network of buyers, other farmers, and finally, consumers, fostering a holistic sense of belonging between various community members.

3. Support family businesses: Family businesses generate almost half of Canada’s private sector and employ 6.9 million people. Most farms are family-run, so when you eat locally, you’re investing in their way of life, helping them carry out their family legacies, and paving the way for business for future generations.

4. Empowers consumers with educated decision-making: When you care about how your food is made and where it comes from, you’re better positioned to make healthier food choices. Maintaining a deeper food knowledge helps you stay informed on agricultural systems and the role you play in your community.

Get hungry for local goods

Canada’s growing appetite for local food is steadily increasing, with many consumers jumping on the bandwagon to support farm-fresh goods to table and supporting restaurants that utilize local suppliers.

But the contents in your fridge and pantry may tell a different story. Expressions and movements to “support local” and “farm to table” are more talk than action. But it’s time we invested better into buying local food and produce for good.

Change has to come from inside your own household. It can be as simple as supporting a local grocery store and buying a few items a week or dining at a local restaurant. Because when you shop at the local level, you’re feeding into something greater than yourself–you’re supporting your local economy, friends, family, and neighbours to find jobs, preserve our environment, and ultimately build a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

To discover local shopping that matches your social interests and values, join Locate Local today.