Source Your Food Locally

There's no guarantee you'll be buying the freshest, tastiest produce if you shop in a supermarket. Local producers grow produce for the best flavor and freshness, so it's worth reconsidering how and where you shop.

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Where to Go For Local Food

The easiest way to shop locally is to find your nearest producer and see if you can buy food direct. By buying straight from the farmers' markets, you are helping the farmers get a fairer price for their produce, and enabling them to continue to strive to produce quality food.

Farmers' Markets
This is by far the most enjoyable and sociable way to do your shopping. Often held outdoors, these markets are full of the freshest seasonal produce and the tastiest varieties of fruit and vegetables. You can also chat with the suppliers and find out how they rear or grow their produce, and make informed choices about what you and your family will eat.

Christmas Markets
Famous in mainland Europe, Christmas markets are now growing in popularity in North America. They are a good source for specialized goods.

Independent Shops
The increase of supermarkets has meant that small, independent butchers, fish-sellers and grocery stores are becoming rarer. Although they are often considered less convenient than a superstore, independent retailers will often give invaluable advice on the produce they have on sale, and can prepare your purchase in exactly the way that you want. All in all, it is a much more personalized way to shop. If you are lucky enough to find a selection of small, specialized shops, do your best to support them by purchasing as much of your food from them as you can.

Box Schemes
Once a week, a mixed box of seasonal vegetables and fruit, usually sourced from small local suppliers, is delivered directly to your home. The emphasis is on flavor, quality and freshness. It's a great way of discovering vegetables that you may never have considered cooking with before, and the unpredictable mix will entice you to become more adventurous with your cooking. Look for local box schemes on the internet, or ask around at your local farmers' market.

Food Facts

The United States Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration only have sufficient resources to inspect a fraction of the food imported to the U.S. each year. Buying locally is the best way to ensure that the food you consume is of the highest quality.

Since 1935, the U.S. has lost more than five million farms. The farms that remain today face intense pressure from urban sprawl and large, multi-million dollar agribusiness corporations. The urban farm movement is concerned with bringing fresh, local produce to urban areas across the country.

Buying food that is in season and can be purchased from local suppliers helps to reduce the amount of carbon emissions and pollution created when purchasing produce flown in from thousands of miles away.

Local farm stores and dairies are a great place to really connect with local food and its producers. The benefits of shopping directly at farm stores are numerous — the produce is as fresh as possible, there is no unnecessary waste generated by excess supermarket packaging and you are supporting the local economy by helping sustain local farms and the jobs they create. Farm stores often have seasonal items available, such as fresh apple cider, chutneys, preserves and baked goods. 

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Excerpted from A Greener Christmas

© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2008

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