25 November 2014

The benefits of eating seasonal and locally grown food

I have made the move to eat only seasonal and locally grown food. It is one of the best decisions I have made. My wallet and health agree with me and you might too.

The benefits of eating seasonal and locally grown food

Do you know where your food comes from? No not the location of stores and markets where you gather the weekly groceries. Where is your food grown and harvested? How many kilometres does your food travel before it gets to your shop? And do you know what seasons your food grows?

I didn't until recently. Now we have made some changes and decided to become local and seasonal food consumers.

When the builder and I moved in together we made a consciences effort to shop and support local business as we navigated the ins and outs of living and shopping plastic free. We frequented the green grocer, butcher, fish monger and the grain and nut store. It was not until the Builder questioned whether our green grocer's fruit and vegetables were organic that I began to investigate what it meant to eat sustainably.

I looked at our food buying habits. Nope we were not buying organic fruit and vegetables. Although we were supporting a small business not all of the food was coming from local farmers. Much of it was travelling from several states away resulting in a larger carbon foot print.

We decided that aside from organic fruit and veggies, we also wanted to make less of an impact and could achieve this by simply supporting local farmers and eating what is in season. Aside from being a sustainable earth friendly choice there are other benefits too only buying food that is in season and from within our own State. Let's look at why...

Environment

Our food has a smaller distance to travel equaling fewer carbon emissions. The fruit and vegetables we buy come from farms that are less than three hours away, some even closer. An organic farmer will steer clear of toxic chemicals and pesticides, using only friendly methods to grow food. If the farmer grows organic it is a sign that he cares about the environment just as much as you and me. Eating locally grown food means we have to eat seasonally. It goes hand in hand.

Supporting local businesses and community

Recently one of Australia's big name supermarkets were sprung marketing and selling freshly baked bread that was...no joke...baked in Ireland and shipped to Australia. Now no harm to the Irish, you are very gifted bakers. I adore your soda breads and potato breads dearly but this was ludicrous. It makes me cringe when I think of not only the environmental impact but also the economic and social impact eating food shipped from far away countries and regions has on food growers in my very own State. By going to a certified farmer market we support food businesses in Victoria which in turn supports local families and the local economy.

Save money

Eating seasonally will also save you money as food that is purchased out of season can be marked up. Think about it; tomatoes grow naturally in summer. They are a summer fruit and a delicious one at that. So for farmers to grow tomatoes out of season will require more effort which requires more money. The farmers then have to pass this added price onto the shop owners. Then the shop owners can mark it up using the valid reason a tomato is not in season so it is a premium sale. Since buying food that is in season we have enjoyed a reduction in our weekly grocery bill.

Health

I am limited with the food I can buy. Coming from a habit where I used to buy whatever I fancied I did find the change limiting. But now I am glad for this change. I know food is picked when it is ripe, providing my body with all the nutrient benefits. Let's take the humble strawberry which is in season right now. It is programmed by nature to be eaten this time of year. The farmer should not need to add anything to them to help them grow or put them into greenhouses, which are usually made of plastic to prolong seasons. There are no weird chemicals, waxes or preservatives to make them look nicer. Nor have they been picked and frozen. They come as they are, never looking supermarket perfect but always bursting with flavour. The foods that flourish in the different seasons are aligned to help our bodies through winter, autumn, spring and summer.

At the farmers market I am able to talk to the people that nourish me. I have a direct relationship with the person that grows my vegetables and fruit; farm to plate to belly. I am cultivating community.

We downloaded a list of what is in season from the Victorian Farmers Markets Association to help us understand what food is in season. Sometimes there have been items at the market that are not on the list so we ask them how they are storing the food. There are even some leeks still available but now they are on the smaller size because the season is finished. The list is there a guide. The best person to ask is the farmer or produce seller.

"Our accreditation system means that shoppers can be sure they are buying freshly harvested, seasonal, local food direct from the person who grew, reared, baked or caught it. And it means local food producers can get a fair price for their goods." Victorian Farmers Markets Association

Of course the best way to eat local and seasonally would be to grow your own and partake in local food swaps. But if you are like me and are still a novice gardener, lack the space or simply don't like gardening then I suggest you check out your local farmers market. If a farmers market is not an option and the idea of eating seasonally appeals to you search for what is in season in your area.

The benefits of eating seasonal and locally grown food

We are able to avoid plastic and any other packaging, keeping our shop to complete zero waste. If our food comes tied in elastic bands we take them back for the farmers to use. One upside of buying at the farmers markets is there are no stickers on our produce. One downside is that buying meat or fish is not worth trying as our market is took small to have effective refrigeration which is required to sell meat in Victoria. The upside is that we are now eating a lot less meat. 

Another downside is that most of my cookbooks are not season friendly. Like at all. Or the food blogs I frequent. So recipes have kinda gone out the window and ingredients have become king to inventions resulting in dishes that are simpler and resulting in less time in the kitchen.

Check out what is in season and locally grown were you live. I promise you will enjoy eating food that is good for you, grown with care and will feel good about making a sustainable choice that will save money too.

Tell me, what is your fave food to buy in season?
  1. Great post Erin! Buying seasonal, local produce is so important. I love visiting farmers' markets and finding out the best way to cook their produce - they have loads of handy tips! It's also really interesting to hear how the produce is grown as it gives you an appreciation for all the love and care involved.

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    1. Farmers are a great resource for so much and i adore chatting with my farmers too. Without them we wouldn't have great blogs like your. Thanks Tara. Thanks for your comment.

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  2. Eating seasonally really is the way to go and makes sense in so many ways -- citrus full of vitamin C in winter, spring tonic greens and watermelon for thirst in summer. As you say, the best way to know what is in season in your local area is to grow your own produce and to attend a local food swap.

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    1. I cannot wait to get more of my garden going so I can attend a food swap.

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