Eating Locally – Good for So Many Reasons

It’s harvest season in the United States. In other words, ’tis the time of year to eat locally and preserve all of that gorgeous locally grown produce!

This weekend I snagged a second case of local organic roma tomatoes (for the amazingly low price of $15) with plans to make and can more sauce. You see, I already processed one case of the local romas and put away six quarts of sauce (so deliciously *thick a wooden spoon stood up in it). Six quarts is not nearly enough though, so I got the second case. Today I canned six more pints and two quarts. It’s still not enough, but being that a frost is expected tonight and when I got the second case, I was told that was the last of the romas, my sauce making days may be over for the season.

I’m not complaining though. I am actually quite proud of the canning I’ve been able to accomplish this year. It’s definitely my most productive canning year since I started two years ago. A shelf in my garage contain jars of apple sauce, pear sauce, nectarine preserves, dilly beans (like dill pickles, but with green beans), and now tomato sauce (and more that I haven’t moved out there yet). About 2/3 of the food I preserved came from right here in my city and the other 1/3 came from within the state.

It’s not a ton, but it makes me feel good and I like to look at it. 😉 Maybe I should arrange the jars by color for more of a rainbow effect. 😉

There are a lot of reasons why it’s good to eat locally.

According to One Million Acts of Green:

A lot of the food we eat in North America has travelled a great distance to get to us. On average, various food items travel more than 2,400 kilometres (or nearly 1,500 miles). That’s a lot of energy, transport and storage. Plus, all that food is shipped in controlled environments, which depletes nutrition. Buying local produce means your food is fresher. It also helps local farmers and reduces air pollution.

Treehugger points out additional benefits of eating locally:

… farmers who sell direct to local consumers need not give priority to packing, shipping and shelf life issues and can instead “select, grow and harvest crops to ensure peak qualities of freshness, nutrition and taste.” Eating local also means eating seasonally, he adds, a practice much in tune with Mother Nature.

“Local food is often safer, too,” says the Center for a New American Dream (CNAD). “Even when it’s not organic, small farms tend to be less aggressive than large factory farms about dousing their wares with chemicals.” Small farms are also more likely to grow more variety, too, says CNAD, protecting biodiversity and preserving a wider agricultural gene pool, an important factor in long-term food security.

Another benefit of eating locally is helping the local economy. Farmers on average receive only 20 cents of each food dollar spent, … the rest going for transportation, processing, packaging, refrigeration and marketing. Farmers who sell food to local customers “receive the full retail value, a dollar for each food dollar spent.”

One of the many Acts of Green from One Million Acts of Green is to Purchase Locally Grown Produce. I’ve been appreciating the importance of this more and more over the last few years. Of course there are the benefits to eating seasonally as was mentioned on TreeHugger. There are also the benefits of preserving (either by freezing, dehydrating, or canning) locally grown food while it’s in season. It can be time intensive, but the more I do, the more rewarding it is.

I also admit I love to hear my six-year-old — upon seeing the jars of sauce on the countertop — say, “We sure are getting ready for winter!” I like that the idea of canning and freezing food for the winter is just natural to her.

As I said in my intro post to One Million Acts of Green, “I don’t claim to live a perfectly green lifestyle, but I do the best that I can in the moment. I try to lead by example and inspire others to do what they can too.” If buying a bit of your produce locally at the Farmer’s Market or local farm stand is something that feels good to you, go for it. I have to say it’s kind of cool to know just where your food is coming from and to even meet the people who are growing it. Or perhaps you have a friend or a neighbor who’s garden is producing too much for them. Most gardeners are happy to share the wealth. All you have to do is ask.

Do you buy locally? Do you preserve food for winter? If not, what’s holding you back from getting started?

If you haven’t yet checked out One Million Acts of Green, I encourage you to read my intro post and learn more about how you can start logging and sharing your Acts of Green.

* I cooked my sauce in a stockpot on the stove, but moved it into the crock pot to cook down on low (uncovered) overnight. It worked like a charm. 🙂

Disclosure: Rockfish Interactive, in partnership with Cisco, is compensating me for my considerable time on this project. However, my ideas, words, and opinions are my own and are not influenced by this compensation.

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17 thoughts on “Eating Locally – Good for So Many Reasons”

  1. I do buy locally – in fact, this weekend I picked up my local flour, which I buy through a CSA. I also garden and visit my local farmer’s market. And I preserve – I freeze and I can, mostly.

    I like knowing where my food comes from, and knowing the people who produce it. Somehow, it just feels so much better to me.

  2. In the past I’ve done the farmers market thing but this year I was able to join a CSA. We also moved into a bigger house a month ago and now have the space to store canned goods and even room for an upright freezer (I just have to find one). My plan is to get everything ready over the winter so that next spring I can start canning and freezing our extra produce instead of giving it away to family and friends 🙂

  3. I’d love to know how you use your canned stuff through the winter (aside from the tomato sauce obviously). I’d like to can, but when I look up recipes, all I find are condiments, sauces and toppings. So if I did can it would probably end up as extra ‘novelty food’ rather than actually replacing any of my usual produce wants over the winter.

  4. It is important that we achieve the best in nutrition to be able to deliver good products and good health for our younger children.

    Terry Brand

  5. I’ve been really working on eating more locally, especially since in the last year a co-op grocery opened just down the street from me.

    Last year I tried preserving a few things with freezing and it worked pretty well. This year I also tried my hand at canning, I did diced tomatoes and applesauce. Not a lot, but I felt pretty accomplished since it was my first year 🙂

    I have a guest post up at Fake Plastic Fish ( about the process I used with the spiced applesauce.

  6. Wohoo! My next door neighbor gave me her whole set of canning pieces. The pot, the tongs, lost of glasses! Can’t wait for next year!

    Now I just have to make sure I order enough of the BPA Free lids to take care of what we grow next year…happy canning!


  7. @Krista

    The three main things I can for winter are tomatoes, peaches, and spaghetti sauce. I love to eat the peaches just plain, use the tomatoes in various cooking, and then spaghetti sauce for obvious things. Other produce I think does better freezing, such as corn, peas, broccoli, green beans, and peppers. You can also just store a lot of potatoes (If you buy them from a farmer, you can ask if he has some that are not washed, they will last a lot longer) onions, and winter squashes, just in a cool place, such as a garage or a cool basement.

    I also have a dehydrator, so I like to dry things. I dry tomatoes, corn, carrots, cabbage, and then a few different fruits into fruit leathers.

    I try to eat pretty much only local food. My exceptions are rice, chocolate, when I eat out, oil, and vinegar. I am still looking for local sources of oil and vinegar. I try not to use a ton of chocolate or rice, but I enjoy both, so will on occasion use them, but try to get rice that comes from California, and then with chocolate, I like to buy from this place that makes chocolate right in the town where I work, who treats their farmers very well, and even though it is from far away, a business I can feel supportive of.

  8. It really makes sense to eat locally as much as possible. We got lots of apples so we can can up our next years worth. It’s so much better then buying applesauce at the store.

    We’ve canned tomatoes, salsa, raspberries, and most other fruits in the past and still have some on our shelves.

  9. We watched the video “Food, Inc” recently and were impressed with the idea of eating locally. Its fantastic to find more people taking an interest in treating their bodies, as well as local farmers right.


  10. There are good reasons for buying local, and we should celebrate them. But energy use is not one of them, unfortunately, as we find out over and over.

    If you go 5 miles to the store in your average car in the US, buy 30 lbs of groceries, and go home, then the energy expended to create and transport that food from Germany or beyond can be less than purchasing something at the farmer’s market that was delivered there in a normal truck or van. Our perceptions of the energy of food distribution don’t seem to match reality some of the time.

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