Why Buy Local

Purchasing and consuming locally grown products has been rapidly increasing in popularity recently. From fruit and vegetables to meat and eggs, more people are consuming more locally grown products today than anytime during the past several decades. They're doing it for several reasons; one of the biggest is because of the taste difference.

The average person is several generations removed from the farm. Time was when the majority of the population ate what they raised. As society grew from agrarian to industrial the need for farmers decreased. Farmers got bigger and technology increased, which made farmers much more efficient. But with that efficiency and the ability to move product around the world, we've lost one aspect of food: taste. And while no one will argue with the selection of food in today's grocery store, one can argue that food that travels 1500 miles on average to reach the vegetable section of the grocery store just doesn't taste as good as food just picked the day before. That food has to be picked before it is fully ripe as ripe fruit just can't withstand the rigors of travel. So the taste doesn't fully develop.

How many people believe that a tomato should taste the same in February as it does in August? And for those store bought tomatoes that would be a correct assumption. But if you've ever had a tomato picked out of the garden in August it just doesn't compare to a store bought one. There is a world of taste difference. The same is true for eggs and meats. Compare the yolk and white from a local egg to one purchased in a store. There is an amazing difference.

Besides the huge taste difference that locally raised offers, there are other attributes that purchasing local provides. These include supporting the community and keeping your food dollars local. Purchasing local means dollars stay in the community to help build that community. You also get to know the people raising your food by buying local. You can talk to them about how the food was raised.

We're lucky here in the Midwest because there are a number of producers who do grow and sell locally raised products. Everything from fruits and vegetables to meat and eggs and nuts and honey and wine. We have a number of Farmers Markets that operate weekly from spring through fall. We have growers who sell directly off the farm and some that offer a weekly "package" of fruit and vegetables for subscription. We have several restaurants that offer locally grown products and we have a store front that offers local products throughout the year. All these entities can be found in our Eat Fresh, Eat Local food directory. The directory lists all growers of local food in the area that we know of. We update this publication each year and we're in the midst of doing that now.

You can find that directory at: http://web.extension.illinois.edu/abhps/localgrown/