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EcoShopping with Local Farmers
by Wendy Nadherny Fachon

EcoShopping is all about buying products that are earth-friendly, and by purchasing locally-grown food directly from farmers, shoppers become a part of a community that is supporting a healthy environment and climate. As much as 90% of the food consumed in New England currently comes from outside the region, and the majority of produce sold in super markets is shipped all the way from California, which requires a lot of fossil fuel for transport. Recognizing this, the New England region has established a bold plan to produce 50 percent of its food by the year 2060. While the intent is to improve food security by preserving and growing the agricultural sector of the economy, the ecological benefits are also significant.

Local growers care about the land and the wildlife. They use environmentally-friendly growing practices, such as recycling compost and animal manure to improve the soil. They use natural means for pest management, rather than toxic chemicals. They maintain fields, meadows, woods, streams and ponds that provide habitat for the wildlife that is an important part of the farm and the ecology of the surrounding community.
Local growers preserve open space. When local families, schools and restaurants pay growers for the quality of their products, the growers are less likely to sell land for development. Development requires an infrastructure of roads and houses that leads to deforestation. Deforestation contributes to climate change and disrupts corridors of natural habitat. This disrupts seasonal migrations, which threatens the survival of many species.

Shoppers buying locally-raised food have a smaller carbon footprint. Within industrial agriculture, food travels an average of 1,500 miles from food to plate. And, each calorie of food requires an average of 10 calories of fossil fuel from travel, refrigeration, and processing. Buying locally-grown food minimizes the use of fossil fuels and reduces. Fewer carbon emissions means fewer gases that cause global warming.
Fresh locally-frown food requires less plastic packaging than processed food. Plastic accounts for about 16 percent of landfill waste. Farmers market shoppers carry reusable bags and place bunches of kale and carrots directly in those bags. Many farm products come in nature’s own package. Potatoes come wrapped in their own jackets and onions are wrapped in their own skins. Then there’s pumpkins, squash and beans; they all grow their own natural protective shells.

Finally, buying locally-grown helps a local economy to prosper. Local farmers tend to spend the money they earn locally, buying local materials and paying local workers to help with their businesses. When money circulates within the local community, it sustains the community and promotes food security for everyone.

A successful local food system is built upon the foundation of a consciously-developed foodshed, a well-informed populace and well-organized community access programs, like farmers markets. A foodshed is the geographic region that produces the food for a particular population. The term is used to describe a region of food flows, from the area where it is produced, to the place where it is consumed, including the land it grows on, the route it travels, the markets it passes through and the tables it ends up on.

Farm Fresh Rhode Island in Pawtucket, RI and Coastal Foodshed in New Bedford, MA are two organizations leading the New England region in food-system planning and innovation. They are devoted to meeting the growing consumer demand for fresh, locally-grown food, and EcoShopping opportunities abound through local farmers markets, community supported agriculture (CSA) programs, mobile farm stands, farm-based stores and local shopping apps like WhatsGood.

Learn more by listening to the Story Walking Radio Hour podcast Building Local Food Systems Through Community.


The Story Walking Radio Hour Archives with Wendy Fachon

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