This last couple of weeks have been a brilliant reminder of the multiple benefits of eating local. With one of the largest egg recalls in history, I felt vindicated that I have been supporting my local farm for several years now and purchasing their wholesome organic, cage free eggs. Not only do I know my eggs are safe to eat, but I know that I’m in some important way contributing to the local economy and the well being of my guests.
An important lesson to be sure. The single most valuable asset to buying your food locally is the familiarity you have with your farmers. You can guarantee that things are being done the right way by going to the source of your food and checking up on the facts. You can see what chemicals may or may not be used and how “free” your “free range” chickens really are. And perhaps most importantly, how clean the facilities are that these animals are kept in. All of these can contribute to your peace of mind that what you are eating is safe, environmentally friendly, economically friendly and of course friendly to the animals and people involved.
A friendly reminder of some terms. CSA means community supported agriculture. There are CSA’s all over the country. They all work on the same basic premise. You pay for a share of the crop of a farm and then you get some fresh produce. Prices and exact rules may vary but the concept is the same. Get the freshest seasonally available produce at the best price. “Certified Organic” may be a misnomer. Just because a “farm” is certified doesn’t guarantee quality. Certification is expensive and many small farms that are doing it the right way cannot afford to get certified. Larger corporate farms that can afford certification often cut corners and abuse the system. For example, a chicken can be called “cage free” as long as it spends at least 15 minutes a day in sunlight. That’s a cop out and not the kind of farm I want to support. “Certified Natural” is similar to “Certified Organic” only it is designed to be taken advantage of by local smaller farms. It is much cheaper but also requires no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides and hormones.
One interesting fact to keep in mind about supporting local farms. According to AARP magazine, if you spend $100 at a local business, $45 of that will stay within the community. If you spend that same $100 at a chain store, only about $14 of that will stay within the community. Times are tough for everyone. I don’t know about you, but I would rather support those people that I know and care about than the CEO’s of a big corporation. Lets keep the $$ local and support our local farms.