Friday, January 23, 2009

Sourcing Locally Grown Organic Foods Saves Money

Who? What? Where? Why? Let's start with what and why:

  • Buying foods grown or produced within your county, state or region, minimizes the petroleum consumption used to bring it to your store. This reduces your cost and helps the environment--two powerful reasons to look for local sources.

  • Foods produced in your general area are beneficial for people with allergies, who need a constant, minimal exposure to their allergens to help build their immunity. Building up an immunity to allergens means fewer allergic reactions and less of the hay fever type symptoms--runny nose, watery eyes--that plaque those with allergies.

  • Buying locally produced foods keeps the money in your local economy, helping all your neighbors keep their jobs. It's not just about the farmers. Think about all the people who provide products and services to the farmers: farming equipment, building materials for barns and storage areas, veterinarians and their assistants, natural fertilizers, pest control and herbicides, animal feed, vegetable plant nurseries, and the list goes on. Want to help your local economy? Read the labels; look for products grown nearby.

  • Organic farming is better for the soil. Organic plants decompose into the soil, adding nutrients, rather than pesticides to the soil. Keeping your nearby farmers' soil healthy means that local produce will be healthier. You can help by supporting your local farmers.

Now, I'll tackle who and where:

  • First and foremost, start with your local farmers' markets and produce stands. Talk with the farmers and find out who grows their produce and produces their livestock or poultry organically. Typically, small, local farmers cannot afford the cost of getting certified as an organic producer. But many choose to pursue this path without official certification, and you can find out who they are by talking to the farmers. They love to chat with buyers at the market, so go make some farmer friends. You may learn something.

  • Check out Eat Well Guide or click the widget in my sidebar. It's the yellow thing that asks for your zip code, located just below my profile. When you use this widget, it will pop open a list of farmer's markets, natural foods markets, restaurants, etc. This is an easy place to get started.

  • While they do try, your local natural foods markets rarely have a large selection of locally-grown/produced products. Sometimes there are signs noting a product's origin, and some stores have pamphlets identifying such products. You can also ask an employee who would best know these answers. Perhaps the produce buyer and the meat manager can be your best sources. Get to know them and they'll start to direct you to the products you're looking for. These folks can be your best friends at the market.

  • Organic buying co-ops allow you to reduce your grocery costs. Buying co-ops use the buying power of a large group to get better pricing from local markets. Ask around at the markets or do a Google search. I found several local groups in Central Florida, but your area will have different ones. This info is just one Google away.

  • Of course, you can consider growing your own. Even if you live in an apartment, many vegetables can be grown in pots with the right light exposure. While, I'm no expert, my basil growing on the back porch (facing South) is thriving. If you enjoy working with the soil and have a yard with an appropriately sunny spot, test a small area with a few suitable veggie choices and try your luck. You may find that it is fun and therapeutic, as well as healthy and tasty.

  • Some municipalities have plots of land on which small sections are allotted to residents to grow their own food. If you lack ground or a sunny spot for pots, check with your neighbors or you city to see what your options might be. Who knows, you might start something.

  • With a little planning and luck, you could be eating your own freshly grown, organic veggies in the Fall. Got a friend with a big back yard? Maybe you could bond over a garden project. You provide the seed (and perhaps some natural fertilizer) and she provides the land. Split the proceeds and you have a co-op.

I'd love to hear your organic gardening stories--successes and mishaps alike are all welcome. We can learn from you. Please share at the comment link below this post.

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