Eat Local for a Healthier Diet

Learning how to eat local and where to buy fresh food is simple once you know where to look.

| March/April 2002

Did the vegetables you enjoyed at dinner last night come from a farmstead in the next county—or from fields on the other side of the globe? If you’re not sure, join the club. Many consumers are in the dark when it comes to the source of their food, according to Betsy Barnum, director of the Great River Earth Institute, a nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis that seeks to promote local—not global—consumption.

Barnum is one of a growing number of consumers who are becoming conscious eaters, enjoying homegrown,  locally produced foods  whenever possible. It’s a way to get more closely connected with our environment and to take better care of it, explains Barnum.

“I belong to a community-supported farm eighty miles from where I live,” says Barnum. Like the other members, she gets a delivery of fresh vegetables—whatever is in season on the farm at that time—every week. Occasionally, the farm hosts gatherings where members come together to enjoy a potluck or a harvest celebration on the land. Plus she has an open invitation to help weed, cultivate, or harvest.

By being a member of a local farm, Barnum has learned a lot about how her food is grown and when produce is in season. “The very first delivery of the year includes lots of lettuce, spinach, and radishes,” she explains. In July, she’ll get to enjoy local strawberries.

Conscious eating

In recent decades, with readily available air freight and refrigeration, food has become a global commodity much like lumber or copper, according to Joan Dye Gussow, a nutrition professor at Columbia University and author of This Organic Life: Confessions of a Suburban Homesteader, (Chelsea Green, 2000). But Gussow is not convinced the globalization of our food supply is a good thing.

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