Buying locally grown foods is easy to do. Just find a local farmers market or the product you're looking for in this directory. The farmers will get a fair price for their products, and you will get delicious fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats, honey, and more, fresh from the farm. Local food is fresher, more nutritious, and tastes better than food picked before it's ripe and after it is shipped long distances. Local farmers can offer varieties bred for flavor and nutrition rather than for uniform size, shape, color, and long shelf life.
And if that isn't enough, here are more reasons to buy local foods.
Cheap food prices and overflowing store shelves are hiding the true environmental and social costs of our current food and agriculture system. Since the 1970's, research has identified the excessive amounts of energy used to transport and package foods from distant states and countries. In the future as petroleum supplies decline, food systems will need to adjust. To conserve energy, to reduce global warming, and to decrease costs, farms and consumers should attempt to participate in more local food systems.
Furthermore, the long term loss of family farmers and the impoverishment of rural communities continues. Fewer and fewer young people can become farmers. The dominant food distribution system is vulnerable to terrorism and massive contamination.
The good news is that we now have an alternative. A growing number of farmers are choosing to work with nature, rather than wage war against it. These farmers use sustainable or organic practices that build up the soil, reduce runoff, create habitat for wildlife, treat livestock humanely and best of all, produce safe, wholesome food.
But the most environmentally sound farming practices in the world don't mean a thing if they don't provide a good income for the farmer. Farmers using sustainable methods cannot prosper without the help of urban and rural consumers. As these farmers explore creative new ways to grow and market their products, consumers can support their choice to farm sustainably by purchasing their products.
In our local market, you as a consumer have the power to communicate with farmers and to encourage them to grow your favorite foods in an environmentally and socially sound manner. You have the power to make farming less about price and more about the natural and social communities in which you live.
Thus, your actions will help us rebuild Illinois' local food systems, which are the foundations for our local communities. The traditional markets for local foods have been decimated over the past 50 years. We believe that it is in the best interests of the citizens of Illinois that these markets be restored as much as possible.
Communities depend on the surrounding environment for clean water, clean air, and food. Yet most citizens have forgotten about the real linkages between themselves and the Land (as Aldo Leopold would say) and the farmers who work it. Promoting relationships between consumers and farmers makes these linkages more apparent and real. With closer relationships, food-buying transactions can focus on more than just price. Consumers may then actively support and encourage practices that support the environment and society.
A Sand County Almanac. A. Leopold. 1949. Oxford University Press.
America's Eating Habits. E. Frazao. 1999. USDA-ERS Ag. Info. Bull. #750.
Bringing Change to the Table. S. Meyers and Institute for Community Resource Development. 2003. Illinois Food Security Summit.
Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods. G. P. Nabhan. 2002. Norton
Fast Food Nation. E. Schlosser. 2002. Perennial.
Food, Energy and Society. D. Pimentel and M. Pimentel. 1996. University of Colorado Press.
Food Politics. M. Nestle. 2002. University of California Press.
A Matter of Scale: Small Farms in the North Central Region. http://ssfin.missouri.edu/report.htm
Small Wonders. Barbara Kingsolver. [There is a great essay on eating locally.] Perennial An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2002
The Unsettling of America. Wendell Berry. 1977.
The Gift of Good Land. Wendell Berry.
All materials © Board of Trustees, University of Illinois