Eat Local for People, Planet, Economy

Where does your money go when you buy products from California or a major corporation?

According to the American Independent Business Alliance, only a third of the money spent at a national chain goes back to the local economy compared to money spent at a local business. What you decide to put in your fridge can greatly impact the community as a whole.

One way to optimize that impact is to practice the triple-bottom-line approach when you grocery shop: Consider how what you buy will affect the people, environment and economy of your community.

When you go to a farmers market, you are surrounded by your community members. You have the opportunity to interact with the farmers who cultivate the carrots, greens, and radishes that will fill your refrigerator. As your relationships with local farmers grow, you will know what goes into your meals — and you might even make a new friend along the way. This human connection helps us all realize the value of food and how sacred what we put into our body can be.

Buying local food also contributes to a healthier planet. Not only do your local carrots taste better (since they were picked at peak freshness), they also had to travel less than the California carrots you might see in the grocery store.

Local food producers also tend to use more environmentally friendly growing practices than large scale, profit-driven corporations. More than 3,500 farms are MAEAP-verified (Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program), meaning that they “voluntarily prevent or minimize agricultural pollution risks.” These practices promote the future of fertile land in our community.

Supporting local businesses not only keeps your money in the local economy — it also provides job security in your area. This ensures that farmers will stay in your region. Local products may cost slightly more, but the money goes toward a high-quality product that directly supports the producer. By buying products from major corporations, you distance your money from the producer and waste the chance to contribute to your local economy.

Your local farmers market may only run six months a year, but there are still opportunities to buy local all year. Many grocery stores offer local shelf-stable goods, such as jams and honeys, that last through our winter months. Better yet, you can savor the tastes of summer yourself by freezing, canning or otherwise preserving throughout the peak produce seasons. Plus, your local eggs, cheese and milk should be available all year.

When you buy using the triple-bottom-line state of mind, you realize that what you buy will affect the people, planet and economy nearby.

While northern Michigan may not be blessed with the citrus fruits of California, we are blessed with wine grapes and hops. So, raise a glass of local wine or beer in honor of all farmers and producers.

Emma Beauchamp is the local food coordinator in northwest Michigan for Taste the Local Difference. This article was originally published in the Traverse City Record Eagle. Contact her at  [email protected].

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson. Photo is of Coveyou Scenic Farm Market Lettuce.