*Written by: Maggie Vander Pol and Lindsey Hoffman*
Our state has a strong agricultural history, and there is so much local produce to go around. Peaches from Palisade. Melons from Rocky Ford. Green Chiles from Pueblo. But what does it really mean to buy local?
The USDA defines local as food grown within 400 miles of where it is consumed. But for GoFarm, we look only to the boundaries of Colorado when we talk about local food, which most of the time stays within 200 miles of Jefferson County. Though in reality, most of our food is hyper-local, which we consider to be within the Front Range and grown within 50 miles of our distribution locations.
This focus on local and hyper-local is so valuable to our community. Buying local food provides significant health benefits, improves environmental health, and creates economic opportunity. Thus, a local food economy is a wonderful thing to have and cultivate (literally!). Here are some of the many reasons why local is so important.
Significant Health Benefits:
Locally grown food is usually (and in GoFarm’s case, ALWAYS) grown using organic and sustainable farming practices. This means that the food is pesticide, GMO, preservative free. It also means that the food is grown in healthy, nutrient rich soils that pass along nutrients and healthy bacteria into the plants and crops that we eat. This allows us to then digest those essential nutrients and microbes and feed our bodies with the healthiest fuel there is.
Local food has also traveled a shorter distance to get to your plate and has been handled by far fewer people. This reduction in what is called, “food miles” reduces the risk of contamination and eating un-safe food. With GoFarm – your food goes directly from the farmer, to a GoFarm staff or intern, to you!
Improves Environmental Health:
Our local farmers focus on the health of their soil above all else. This is because healthy soil grows the best tasting and healthiest food, but also because it sustains itself over time and has greater resilience against natural disasters.
Healthy soil has great water holding capacity. Allowing the water to soak into the soil, instead of runoff reduces erosion and keeps our waters clean, as well as makes the crops more resilient to drought.
Healthy soil can hold A LOT of carbon (carbon sequestration), which helps remove carbon, a detrimental greenhouse gas) from the atmosphere, and stores it in the soil where it’s needed. This is a huge opportunity for combating climate change. Unfortunately, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that more than 75% of agricultural genetic diversity was lost in the 20th century. This makes for unhealthy soil that has none of the benefits listed above. But small, local, biodiverse farms help preserve our wide-ranging food heritage, and the robust soil that comes with it. Supporting them is how we can ALL ensure we’re keeping our soils and food healthy, now and in the future.
Let’s not forget to mention that eating local also reduces food miles, which is the distance food travels to get to your plate. The greater the food mileage, the greater the impact on the environment. On average, food travels 1,500 miles to get to our plates. But with GoFarm that average number is closer to 40!
Buying local means that the money you spend on food is staying within your community. This is especially true if you shop at a farmers’ market, with GoFarm, or another CSA, since your dollars are going directly back into the hands of farmers. And when local farms thrive, they not only can sell their food to consumers, but to restaurants, commercial kitchens, schools, etc. bolstering our local economy and job market.
If we remain willing to pay farmers adequate compensation for the food they grow for us, the farms will thrive! We will be creating jobs and opportunities for so many more people within the food system, and will be building a stronger and more stable place to live.
As you can now see, eating locally-grown food has amazing health, environmental, and economic benefits. But we have yet to mention that local food is wonderful at creating community. GoFarm distribution locations, farmers markets, field days, CSA pickups etc. are all places where community gathers around the products grown in their neighborhood. It creates a sense of togetherness, where we gather to celebrate and enjoy where we live. We may even meet likeminded folks and get to the know the farmers growing our food. This creates energy and vitality in our community – and we invite EVERYONE to be part of that.