Kristen's Kitchen- Local Food Focus
As Minnesotans, we sure love our summer days out at the lake, and around here lakes are not hard to come by. Getting the whole family together over fresh cut watermelon, seasonal greens, corn on the cob, and a little sun sure sounds like a perfect summer day to me! We all have that thing we look forward to each season, and my favorite is the fresh foods that are available right in our own community. Food always has a way of bringing us together, and we sure could use some of that right about now!
This season is especially my favorite, summertime gets me excited for what is in store, or I should say, stand! Stocking our kitchens from locally sourced foods continue to rise and is a HUGE benefit to our health, environment, and putting dollars back into where it matters most, our community. We are very fortunate to have a local family farm, connecting, educating, and providing us with an array of varieties all season long. These are just some of the many benefits to buying local and exploring new foods and flavors this season is something I am personally looking forward to!
What is local?
Buying local commonly refers to foods sourced from a predetermined mile radius within a county, state, or country. There is no set distance but I like to think of it as having shorter travel times, and the more direct connection between food and consumer (less handling), the greater the impact on our local farms, our health, and environment! All season long we can enjoy fresh produce that has been picked at their peak versus being trucked (and ripened through travel time) thousands of miles across the country. Less travel time = fresher and more tasteful foods, and a thriving community!
Working toward the prevention of diet-related chronic disease? OK, maybe that is not what you are thinking when purchasing local, but it is one added benefit. Purchasing locally correlates with an increase in making healthier food choices and improved nutrition, thus driving down the risk of disease. Another direct benefit is the decreased time it takes for foods to make their way to your kitchen; the food journey plays a major role in freshness and nutrition quality. The longer fruit and vegetables spend on a truck or in storage the greater the loss of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Being able to ripen naturally leads to higher nutrient content, which is especially important with keeping up a healthy immune system. These important plant nutrients are referred to as phytonutrients (phyto meaning plant) that have antioxidant properties. These are naturally derived plant chemicals that aid in our overall health and wellbeing, and long travel times can be damaging to these nutrients.
Another significant benefit to local foods is the farming method. Local farms commonly adopt organic methods of farming, meaning less or no pesticide use as opposed to larger, more industrialized farms. However, because of extra fees, they usually do not become certified. We as consumers get the benefit of organic farming, just without the expensive label.
With sourcing locally, we will naturally drive down our food miles, resulting in reduced CO2 emissions. This is one way we can help our environment while putting dollars back into our community. And less traveling means less point of contact, less risk of exposure to unwanted bacteria and added chemicals. Also, farming preserves green space; when local farms thrive, they can expand. Surrounding land is less likely to be sold to developers, instead, used to grow (no pun intended) their business and keep up with consumer demand.
Lastly, but certainly not least, locally sourced foods also give way to creating community connections. Not only do we like to purchase locally, we like developing relationships with our famers! It gives the opportunity to ask those questions such as how the crops were grown, what challenges persisted this season (weather), and what new varieties can we expect? Try doing that at a supermarket! Knowing exactly where our food comes from is of great interest and will continue to trend upward, especially in these uncertain times.
This season I look forward to sharing more about nutrition, improving health, and how we are coming together to support our local food system!
Here’s to a wonderful season ahead!