One easy way: go to a farmer’s market. Farmer’s markets and similar events are becoming more and more popular as a result of rising food prices and increasing awareness of the benefits of buying locally-grown food. Portland, Oregon started its farmer’s market downtown several years ago and it’s become one of the most popular weekly events in the city, now regarded as a social event as much as an opportunity to buy local produce. Local and regional growers will often clamor to get booth space at these types of events. Even if there’s not a farmer’s market event in your area, grocery stores are starting to become more aware of locally-grown food, and many of the smaller chains particularly have attempted to feature more locally-grown products. I think a good way for Americans in general to increase the amount of goods bought locally is through awareness. The more the benefits of local growing, both nutritional and environmental regarding the carbon footprints of food transportation and logistics, are widely-known, the more demand will grow for it, and businesses will respond to that demand because there’s money to be made in it. Already chains such as Whole Foods are trying to cash in on this demand and I’m sure they won’t be the last.
The easiest answer would be to check out your local farmer’s market. They should be available in just about every major city and some college campuses, such as the University of San Francisco. If you live in a more rural area, try visiting a local farm. Several offer “pick it yourself” options where you can fill up a basket of berries for one fixed price. Activities such as these are also great to do with kids. Other than that, simply stop by the next garage sale you see advertised.
One of the programs that is becoming popular now is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) which allows individuals, groups of friends or a family to puchase a “share” in a local farm. In exchange, you recieve a portion of all the lovely veggies grown that year on the farm. Its a great way to get to know your farmer and learn more about where your food comes from.
Other than food, another important way to support the local economy is to purchase from small, family run businesses as opposed to the big box stores. Many of these smaller stores have been pushed out by the larger stores, so its important to give business to the ones that still are surviving.
If you can’t find a farmers market, you should check out locally owned smaller produce stands. I have found that produce stands carry some of the best quality and the fermers family usually ownes and operates the stand. They might not look as ‘pretty’, but the product is far superior!
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