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Buying Locally Produced Foods

Did You Know?
The majority of the money spent on grocery-store food goes to suppliers, processors, middlemen and marketers. Only 3.5 cents of each dollar actually goes to the farmer. (approximately, I've read other figures but generally it's in this area) If you buy food from a farmers market or farm stand, you can be sure that most, if not all, of your money is going directly to the farmer.

Communities reap more economic benefits from the presence of small farms than they do from large ones. Studies have shown that small farms re-invest more money into local economies by purchasing feed, seed and other materials from local businesses,x whereas large farms often order in bulk from distant companies. Large factory livestock farms also bring down local property values with the intense odors they emit.

Food transported short distances is fresher (and, therefore, safer) than food that travels long distances. Local food has less of an opportunity to wilt and rot whereas large-scale food manufacturers must go to extreme lengths to extend shelf-life since there is such a delay between harvest and consumption. Preservatives are commonly used to keep foods stable longer, and are potentially hazardous to human health. Industrially-produced foods are also difficult to grow without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics and growth hormones, all of which can be damaging to both the environment and human health.

A large amount of fossil fuel is used to transport foods such long distances. Combustion of these fuels releases carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and other pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change, acid rain, smog and air pollution. Even the refrigeration required to keep your fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meats from spoiling burns up energy.

A typical carrot has to travel 1,838 miles to reach your dinner table.

In the U.S., a wheat farmer can expect to receive about six cents of each dollar spent on a loaf of bread-approximately the cost of the wrapping.xiii
Farmers markets enable farmers to keep 80 to 90 cents of each dollar spent by the consumer.
Cheap energy and agricultural subsidies facilitate a type of agriculture that is destroying and polluting our soils and water, weakening our communities, and concentrating wealth and power into a few hands. It is also threatening the security of our food systems, as demonstrated by the continued e-Coli, GMO-contamination, and other health scares that are often seen nowadays on the news.
If you are concerned about genetically-modified foods, you can select local farms that grow food from heirloom seeds. And you can support organic practices in your region.

Local Food: Where to Find It, How to Buy It
This 30-page booklet was developed by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture for consumers who are interested in supporting rural communities by buying locally grown food, but don't know how to begin. You can get the full free PDF version here:


The rise of local farmer’s markets in Toronto: Parkdale-High Park

Eating foods that are in season and buying local foods are suddenly back in fashion. Witness the slow food movement, and the 100-mile (or km) diet. BUT, there have always been farmer's markets in Toronto, and Foodland Ontario has been around ever since I can remember, urging me to eat more squash in the Fall. This "rediscovery" of local foods and farmers isn't just happening in Ontario. In the UK, Gordon Ramsay's brilliant F-Word tv show is urging Brits to remember their forgotten local foods, as well as trying to get the younger generation, who have apparently forgotten how to boil an egg, back into the kitchen. Check out Gordon on CBC's The Hour below.

Doing the homework around local foods, and sustainable shopping, and fair-trade coffee can be very tiring. These tomatoes in my local supermarket looked identical, but one batch came from Mexico and one from Canada (talk about needing to read the fine print). SO, I was thrilled to hear that I can access reliably sourced local and organic foods much more easily now that Sorauren Farmer's Market will be in walking distance from my house. The Westend Food Co-op which runs the market has posted clear statements on its vision, mission, and values.

This goal of transparency at the Westend Food Co-op is fantastic, because when it comes to ecological footprints, the intuitive idea that ALL local foods must have lower footprints for energy production, is NOT always true. A Swedish colleague once told me about a full life cycle assessment comparing local produce with that coming from Spain, which found that the ecological footprint of the Spanish fruit and veggies, was actually lower than the Swedish produce! In sustainability, full life cycle assessment or cradle-to-grave analysis looks at the total amount of energy and resources that it takes to produce some object, including food. It embodies the concepts inherent in full-cost economic accounting.

Dawn Bazely