The term locavore has been around for a while now, but it still feels foreign on the tongue. It’s easy to put it in the drawer “hypes with silly names” and decide not to like it.
But locavores are not the odd ones out they used to be. Farmers’ markets around the country are gaining in popularity, proving that a growing number of people are concerned about where supermarket food is coming from. They want to support the local economy, want to meet the producers of their foods, and they want to eat healthy.
So, is local food healthier than conventional food?
Research suggests that those who choose foods grown closer to home are more likely to have a safer supply with less pesticides, better food quality and less post-harvest handling, which is known to be a significant factor in the spread of food-borne infections.
Also, fruit and vegetables sold at farmers’ markets are picked when at their peak, boasting flavour, vitamins, minerals and even a higher level of antioxidants as the plant develops them to defend itself against the increased ripening stress.
There are several well-documented problems with large-scale farming that can cause health risks.
For produce, issues are contaminated fertilisers, irrigation with unsafe water and the handling of foods by workers who do not adhere to good hygiene practices.
With animals, the major problems are the abuse of antibiotics in livestock, concentration of animals allowing pathogens to spread freely and the impact of stress preventing animals from fighting off infections. In contrast, there are practically no food-borne infection outbreaks recorded coming from small, local producers.
Often small producers follow organic growing or spray-free standards and they have a more personal incentive to look after their crop or livestock. Other than medium and large companies, they also have a direct relationship with consumers, which increases the likelihood of safer practices, ensures a stronger bond and adaptation to the demand.
Eating local, seasonal foods keeps the carbon footprint low and the health impact high. Eating with the seasons may require some creativity when it comes to one’s typical diet but it is well worth it.
Buying what is plentiful at the farmers’ market means it is the best season for the produce and it is also cheaper than what you would spend for out-of-season produce.
Locavores embrace their region and what it has to offer: Healthy and flavoursome food, low carbon footprint, relationships with producers and low prices.
What’s not to like?