1. Taste the difference. At a farmers’ market, most local produce has been picked inside of 24 hours. It comes to you ripe, fresh, and with its full flavor, unlike supermarket food that may have been picked weeks or months before. Close-to-home foods can also be bred for taste, rather than withstanding the abuse of shipping or industrial harvesting. Many of the foods sourced locally will be the best you ever taste.
2. Know what you’re eating. Buying food today is complicated. What pesticides were used? Is that corn genetically modified? Was that chicken free range or did it grow up in a box? People who eat locally find it easier to get answers. Many build relationships with farmers whom they trust. And when in doubt, they can drive out to the farms and see for themselves.
3. Meet your neighbors. Local eating is social. Studies show that people shopping at farmers’ markets have 10 times more conversations than their counterparts at the supermarket. Join a community garden and you’ll actually meet the people you pass on the street.
4. Get in touch with the seasons. When you eat locally, you eat what’s in season. You’ll remember that cherries are the taste of summer. Even in winter, comfort foods like squash soup and pancakes just make sense–a lot more sense than flavorless cherries from the other side of the world.
5. Discover new flavors. Ever tried sunchokes? How about purslane, quail eggs, yerba mora, or tayberries? These are just a few of the flavors you could sample over a year of local eating. Local spot prawns, we learned, are tastier than popular tiger prawns. Even familiar foods were more interesting. Count the types of pear on offer at your supermarket. Maybe three? Small farms are keeping alive nearly 300 other varieties–while more than 2,000 more have been lost in our rush to sameness .
6. Explore your home. Visiting local farms is a way to be a tourist on your own home turf, with plenty of stops for snacks.
7. Save the world. A study in Iowa found that a regional diet consumed 17 times less oil and gas than a typical diet based on food shipped across the country. The ingredients for a typical British meal, sourced locally, traveled 66 times fewer “food miles.” Or we can just keep burning those fossil fuels and learn to live with global climate change, the fiercest hurricane seasons in history, wars over resources…
8. Support small farms. Many people from all walks of life dream of working the land–maybe you do too. In areas with strong local markets, the family farm is reviving. That’s a whole lot better than the jobs at Wal-Mart and fast-food outlets that the globalized economy offers in North American towns.
9. Give back to the local economy. A British study tracked how much of the money spent at a local food business stayed in the local economy, and how many times it was reinvested. The total value was almost twice the contribution of a dollar spent at a supermarket chain .
10. Be healthy. Everyone wants to know whether the local or 100-Mile Diet worked as a weight-loss program. Well, yes, you can lose a few pounds. More importantly, though, you could feel better than ever, eat more vegetables and fewer processed products, sampled a wider variety of foods, and eat more fresh food at its nutritional peak. Eating from farmers’ markets and cooking from scratch saves you from having to count calories.
11. Create memories. A night spent making jam–with children or friends will always be better a time than the latest Hollywood blockbuster. We’re convinced.