Help Create a Healthy Community... Through Active Living

Eating out of the Palm of your Neighbours HandEating out of the Palm of your Neighbours Hand

 

In these days of rising health care costs, we are bombarded with the message to lead an active and healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy foods is a big part of healthy living. It used to be that buying and eating your veggies was enough, but these days, - the vegetables should be organic, and ideally, locally grown as well!

Jerry Heath is the coordinator of "Local Flavours" - a project which supports local producers and builds a stronger local economy and community. Essentially, Jerry wants his neighbours and community members to forgo buying their produce at the large chain grocery stores, and instead, buy them at the farm gate, or at local markets. Officially launched in July 2005 at the Brockville Farmers' Market, "Local Flavours" is an initiative of the UNESCO Frontenac Arch Biosphere which occupies a triangular area in the Thousand Islands/Rideau region of Eastern Ontario.

The primary task of Local Flavours is to bring together local producers and consumers, creating an economic and social partnership which benefits the entire community. Its long-term goal is to build on the strengths of the region by increasing the sustainability of the local food supply and the farmers who produce it.

Local Flavours aims to be as inclusive as possible. The food producers can choose their method of production which includes conventional, transitional, natural and non-certified organic to certified organic approaches. Buying directly from local producer's increases their share of food dollars, helps them to survive in a challenging business and provides them with a stronger, reliable market.

The size of the businesses and the farmers approach to selling their products can vary. Some large operations have shops right on the farm, while others have self-serve farm gate stands. Still others sell their products off-the-farm at farmers' markets. Whichever way it is made and sold, buying food locally, though not a guarantee, often means it has not been exposed to pesticides or herbicides, as these days, there are many organic farms. In addition, when food doesn't have to travel far, it requires less packaging materials, preservatives, and, often, fewer pesticides. These processes all pose threats to the environment and human health, and decrease the taste and quality of food.

But the environmental benefits don't end there. Buying local foods replaces the need for long-distance shipping which reduces the production of damaging greenhouse gases. It also helps to preserve rural agricultural landscape and uses local natural resources without destroying them, since local producers tend to have small, sustainable operations as opposed to large industrial farms.

Buying and eating locally grown food is a win-win -community members and community businesses are supported, and the food purchased is fresher and healthier than grocery store produce - not to mention better value for your money. Enjoying fresh, nutritious, local food - which is tastes better and is better for you - provides the consumer with the added bonus of getting to know their farm neighbours who produce the food.

This is just the beginning of what Jerry hopes will echo the success of older and more established local food projects around the world. He hopes to build partnerships with chefs and restaurants, grocery stores and supermarkets, hotels and B&B's, and institutions. But until then, he plans to continue to promote the project in his neck of the woods.

Here are some of the many benefits of supporting local producers:

  • Increases nutrition and taste - Taste tests have proven that local, fresh foods taste better than their industrial counterparts. Local, naturally raised and fed animal products are noticeably more flavorful, and retain a higher proportion of their nutritional value than imported foods. Studies have shown that fresh, organic vegetables have significantly higher levels of vitamin C, iron, magnesium and phosphorus than conventional vegetables.
  • Supports the local economy - Money spent in the community stays in the community longer, benefiting local retailers and residents. It also creates opportunities for local farmers to develop new markets, such as organic foods, and foods targeted to particular health and ethnic markets. Local consumers could include purchasers who buy for hospitals or school cafeterias.
  • Builds community - Local food buying supports family farmers and helps to support rural communities. It also increases the connection between consumers and the production of their food and has significant social benefits. Communities come together to support locally-produced food and the people who produce it.
  • Preserves local farmland - Many farms are located on the outskirts of urban and suburban population centers. This means they're in danger of being bought out by developers as they struggle to stay in business. Buying local food helps to make farming more profitable and selling farmland for development less attractive. Their location also makes buying local easier for city-dwellers, creating an important symbiotic relationship between cities and farms.
  • Supports sustainable agriculture - Small, local farms are generally more environmentally-friendly than large-scale industrial agriculture operations. They tend to use sustainable farming techniques, often raising products without pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Buying locally also allows the consumer to encourage local farms to use sustainable techniques if they don't already.
  • Reduces wasteful packaging - Foods produced locally require much less packaging than foods shipped long distances. Buying locally eliminates food packaging from the waste stream, thus conserving resources and reducing the need to build new landfills.
  • Reduces air pollution - A tremendous amount of fossil fuel is used to transport industrial foods long distances. Combustion of these fuels releases carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter, and other pollutants into the atmosphere, resulting in global climate change, acid rain, smog, and air pollution.
  • Reduces our reliance on oil - A huge volume of oil is used to transport food that could be purchased locally. Buying locally decreases transportation and thus helps to reduce reliance upon oil supplies.

 Posted January 23, 2006

By Fiona Morrow

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