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Buying local: it’s not only good for you!

I love local food producers because they use fewer processes in the production of my food. The more processed the food, the less goodness we get from our diet. Consequently, buying local is good for mine and my family’s health. Wherever possible, I try to nip down the road for the ingredients, rather than opting for the meal in a can – though it is not always possible.

Although there is no doubting the importance of my family’s health to all my decision-making, I also feel it is essential to acknowledge the other vital reasons for buying local. Here are my many reasons why buying within my community is not only good for us but for our local and wider world too.

Fresher, tastier, seasonal

First thing first, the quality of local produce is so much better in my opinion. Mass-produced items are often forced to grow rapidly. Fruit and vegetables might be picked too soon. Animals are feed hormones and the like to make them bigger. If you taste extra vine-ripened tomatoes from a local supplier, you will understand what a healthy tomato really tastes like. I love buying eggs from the woman at the end of the lane. She has a table and an honesty box. The cakes you can bake with her eggs are divine.

If you buy from the local shop, it has likely only been in stock for 24 hours – only a day ago it was still on the bush or tree, in the ground or walking around the field. Most large supermarkets will keep produce in cold storage for several days, some products for weeks. We pay for convenience with taste, I think. If you want to try a little harder for your produce, I believe you are rewarded with a tastier experience.

It is the sustainable option

Food miles became something of a fad a few years back. People were more aware that supermarkets were sourcing fruit, veg and meats from thousands of miles away when local farmers were struggling. It is not that the products are lesser or that the farmers in other countries don’t deserve the income too. It is that the air miles taken to deliver it to your door does cost the Earth.

I live in the depths of Somerset, so I am lucky. Everything that I could hope to eat – meat, vegetables, fruits, cheeses, bread – are all around the corner. We also have a fine cider industry too – and you can fill your bottles straight from the barrels.

You might not find it as easy to avoid food miles as I do. The most I need to travel is three miles for food that comes from the area around the shop. My eco-footprint is admirably small. If you don’t have the same luxury, you might want to think carefully about reducing food miles as much as you can by sourcing locally.

Keep the money in your community

Local producers and outlets will play an essential role in the economy of your community and mine. One of my closest friends owns a farm shop. She often brings me boxes of produce freshly picked that day – and I serve it straight to my table that night.

When I buy from my friend’s small shop down the road, I pay my money into her business, which helps sustain her job and then she pays money into the local services and businesses.

I am also aware of the importance of community. Thriving shops in my area is also great for our house prices. If there is a bustling sense of togetherness, with people gathering at the local fruit and veg store or the small family-owned butcher, then people will want to live in the area. I have more conversations in the queue at our local bakery than I would ever have at the supermarket. It makes people want to live in our area.

If we buy all our products from large multinationals, the money we work so hard to earn may be shipped out of the country. Only a small proportion of our purchase will benefit the national economy through jobs and tax. I don’t have a problem with buying from the big names, but I know I should give some thought to my local producers who work hard to stay in business.

What I have learnt

I used to live in a big city, and none of this mattered to me. Now I live in a small village, the source of my food matters to me. I may care so much because my neighbours are the producers and the artisans who create the products I now love. However, now that my children are growing, I also feel more responsibility to the planet. So, buying locally is an essential choice in my life.

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