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Going to the supermarket for food to help us eat healthily is part of most of our routines now, but how much attention do you pay to where the food you are buying has come from?
Food that has travelled from another country may have taken a while to get from source to supermarket. You never get to meet the person who has grown your fruit from a faraway land.
Eating local produce can have a big impact on your shopping experience, food bill, education about the food in question and impact on your community. You need to educate yourself about your food so that you know it will help you to eat healthily.
Buy Directly from Local Producers
Buying directly from a local farm or farmers’ market helps the farmer to get a good price for their product. If you build a good relationship with the local farmer you may even be able to negotiate deals with them, something you can’t do in a supermarket.
This, in turn, will encourage more community spirit. You get to know your producers and build a relationship with them. This relationship will allow you to help them by buying regularly from them and it will help you by the producers rewarding your loyalty with deals.
Improves Local Economy
Money spent on local produce stays within the community, which allows the producer’s business to grow and potentially provide jobs.
If you buy directly from the producer there are less links in the chain before it is available for you to buy, meaning it is fresher. They may also be able to offer you more choice of varieties of one food, as they don’t need to worry about just producing food that will be ok when it travels from them to the end supplier.
The more choice you have the better you can match it to the type of meal you want to make. Different varieties of one food may have different flavours that will work better in one meal than another variety would. Tomatoes can vary in taste, as can onions.
Less time travelling means fresher food. By buying locally your farmer is getting more for his produce and this can then be injected back into their business to allow them to grow better quality food.
If you want to ensure you eat healthily, the quality of your food is an important factor.
Eating seasonal food is usually cheaper and the produce is at its best. Supermarkets also sell seasonal produce but buying seasonally and locally gets it from farm to fork quicker.
You can reduce packaging when buying directly from the producer. Just take a good strong (preferably non-plastic) bag and pile everything in.
The amount of plastic packaging around supermarket produce is partly to protect the food when it’s in transit. If it doesn’t have to travel, then it doesn’t need the packaging. It can show itself off in all its glory.
Farmers who follow organic and sustainable energy and practices, help farmland remain in the local community. There is less chance of contamination if there are less steps that the food goes through to get to your plate.
Better Health Benefits
Nutrients may be lost the longer it takes for the produce to get to you. You need nutrients to eat healthily.
Local producers can build more of a relationship with regular customers and offer advice on how to prepare or cook the food. This may be a service provided by meat and fish counters in supermarkets, but it doesn’t tend to be available when buying fruit and vegetables.
Where Are Local Food Producers in Your Area?
Big Barn is a website that lists farm shops, farmers’ markets, butchers, delicatessens by postcode.
Farmers’ markets are a treasure trove of goodies. They open your mind to different varieties of food and allow you to interact with the person who produced it. You can find out more about the food’s origins and a bit of background about the producer. Haggling is allowed and can be enjoyable, once you overcome the initial guilt of reducing their prices. Sometimes it’s hard being British.
Often, you get even cheaper food towards the end of the day, when they need to clear the stall. I worked on a market stall as a teenager and used to shout out lower prices to attract the attention of someone passing by. It often resulted in a gathering to see what else was on offer. Don’t look at it as paying less to the farmer. If they don’t sell, they’re getting zero, plus it is waste.
You can get anything from meat, fish, fruit and vegetables to jams, honey, pickles and fermented products.
Farm Shops sell a lot of their own food, but they also use external suppliers, who may not be local. If possible, they try to source any food from within a 30-mile radius.
Some have restaurants connected to them. The meals tend to comprise of some ingredients from their own farm. They act as a social network for locals too and give them ideas of what sort of meals they can prepare at home using the food they sell in the shop.
A list of Farm Shops local to you can be found at Farm Shop UK
Box schemes, such as one offered by Riverford Organics, provide fresh, seasonal produce and help to support producers local to you. They help you to become more creative with your cooking, as every week you get different produce, some are food items you’ve never experienced before.
When I ordered from Riverford Organics I received a Romanesco Cauliflower, which I made into my Christmas Cauliflower.
It’s up to you how often you order. When I received my first order, I was greeted by a friendly delivery man who told me a bit about Riverford Organics and explained that I had recipe suggestions in the box with my fruit and vegetables. They also take back the box you received your order in when you receive your next order. Less waste is good.
Pick Your Own
Picking your own produce, whether it be strawberries, raspberries, or pumpkins can be a great experience, especially with your children. It helps them understand where your food comes from and they can get mucky, always a bonus!
Going to farms and picking strawberries yourself seems to make the strawberries taste better, as if you’ve grown them yourself. Having an active role makes you feel good about eating it.
Community Supported Agriculture
If you want to get more involved with local produce and helping your community then you can invest in and help farms. It allows customers to gain produce, invest in the producer and commit to a fixed period to help give the producer a more stable income. The Community Supported Agriculture website explains more.
These act like a co-operative. They follow a similar format to Farmers’ Markets and are usually held weekly. The Country Markets website will let you search for one using your postcode.
Buy Milk Direct
You can find farms to buy your milk directly from on the Farmers Weekly website.
As you can see, there are many ways you can help improve the quality of your food and eat healthily, while improving a local business.
Community relationships can be built and your normal robotic walk round the supermarket can be turned into a more pleasurable experience.
Have you tried any of the above options? Comment below and let’s spread the word.