House Call with Carol Hughes

Buying local is always a win-win 

People may buy local foods for a variety of reasons but most do it because they know that eating locally means eating well. This is why you should take every opportunity to go to weekend farmers’ markets, roadside stands or seasonal fruit carts this summer. In fact, there’s never a bad time to take advantage of all of your options to eat locally.

It’s no surprise that over 80 percent of Canadians agree that it’s important to know where their food is coming from. With today’s hyper-industrialized food economy, much of what happens takes place far away from the actual people who are consuming the food. For someone who is trying to buy ethically or even just sustainably, such a lack of transparency can be extremely frustrating.

On top of that, companies who mass produce food prioritize profit and try to get it shipped out as fast as possible. Their emphasis is on making sure the food has a long shelf life, not how it tastes to the people who will end up eating it. That’s not the case when you buy local. Buying local often allows you to get to meet the people who actually grow or prepare your food and help you feel good in knowing that you’re receiving a product that people took pride in making. 

As summer progresses, we have an exciting variety of in-season fruits and vegetables that become available. Local farms are able to grow foods according to the season and preserve genetic diversity while supplying a variety of food that has a longer harvest window. Summer isn’t the only season where you can enjoy the fruits of what your local community has to offer. Instead of shopping at big box stores, many areas have grocery stores, butchers, and bakeries owned and operated by people in the community, making it easy to buy locally throughout the year.

But local produce is just the beginning. Eggs, dairy, honey, maple syrup, cheese, as well as specialty products like handmade soap, and even services, can all be purchased locally. If you check your shopping habits, you might be surprised how much can be replaced with quality, local goods. Consider the recent spread of craft breweries across the north that makes it even easier to cool off with a local beer. Of course, buying local can also be expanded to buying food grown in Ontario, which gives you more options-especially for fresh produce.

Apart from supporting the regional economy, buying in your area is essential to creating a sustainable local food system. When food is produced close to where it is sold, pollution is reduced. Food that ripens on a truck only to sit in a supermarket the next day is picked out for its long shelf life and not for taste. Buying vegetables that are picked before ripening limits the nutritional content and flavor of food. Produce that is made and grown closer to home will be fresher and better for the environment.

Most importantly, buying local is an effective way to use your power as a consumer to support your community. This is a reciprocal relationship when you help your community, your community helps you right back. On top of that, having great tasting local food ensures that you aren’t vulnerable to global food shortages, thereby increasing your own food security. When we support the hard work of local producers and harvesters, food manufacturers, farmers markets, and restaurateurs, we bolster economic growth in our part of the province and help protect good jobs for our area.