I was in my local Kroger the other day, on the hunt for some fresh produce for the week. As I was grabbing a bunch of bananas, I noticed the blue Chiquita sticker stuck to each banana in the bunch. This was nothing new, I buy bananas once a week and I know the Chiquita brand. But for some reason, buying that specific bunch in Kroger that Tuesday afternoon, the sticker caught my attention and caused me to think for a second. I was in Oxford, Ohio and nowhere near my Kroger were there any bananas growing naturally. I mean, bananas need warm, humid conditions as well as great soil quality to grow; a chilly, dry November day in Ohio is the exact opposite. So, where are my bananas from, I wondered. And what’s more, where is ALL my food coming from?
I began this investigation with, of course, the bananas. According to Banana Link, “Chiquita operates banana plantations or buys year-round in Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ecuador, Colombia, Nicaragua, Mexico and Peru.” So, just as I had predicted, no where near Ohio. I continued my search, looking at which countries produce and export the most food, wondering, was any of my food local?
The 4 Countries that Produce the Most Food:
Location. Countries by Jennifer Ryan Kelly. 2021. Graphic
The first country that produces the most food, Brazil, surprised me. According to the Global Yield Gap Atlas, “annual crop production area in Brazil occupies 69 million hectares.” Brazil is known for sugarcane, soybeans, and beef production, says to Investopedia. Additionally, Brazil is the world’s leading producer of one of the world’s most beloved crops: coffee. This country is a top food producer because of the warm, humid climate.
The rich soils of China’s eastern and southern regions are very productive. China produces a variety of foods, including: rice, wheat, peanuts, eggs, potatoes, onions, cabbage, watermelon, grapes, and plums.
“While India is one of the largest food producers in the world, its farm productivity is far lower than in China, the U.S., or Brazil,” says Investopedia. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, “India is the world’s largest producer of milk, pulses and jute, and ranks as the second largest producer of rice, wheat, sugarcane, groundnut, vegetables, fruit and cotton.”
The United States:
Food production in the United States is spread out among the country, but the leading states for production include: California, Iowa, Texas, and Nebraska. “The most popular exports from the United States are maize, soybeans and wheat. Other common exports include almonds, cotton, potatoes, and chicken,” says the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
So, there it is. Very little of the food in my supermarket is even grown in this country, much less my state. Why does this matter, you ask? Check out this article to understand the sustainability of local food. In addition to the fact that local food is more sustainable than food shipped across the world, there are other benefits to buying locally as well.
5 benefits of Buying Local Food:
1. Local Food is Fresher
The closer food is produced to home, often the fresher, and therefore better tasting, it will be. When grown locally, the crops are picked at their peak of ripeness versus being harvested early in order to be shipped and distributed to your local retail store. Furthermore, “Fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients within 24 hours of being picked, so fresher produce is more nutritious,” claims Virtua Health.
2. Local Food Saves Money
According to Grand Valley State Undergraduate Research, “Local food sold at the farmers market was statistically less expensive than comparable non-local food sold at nearby supermarkets.” Eating locally also means that you will be eating seasonally. Plan meals around what’s in season to help you save. For example, eat locally produced strawberries in the summer months with the prime month being June. Not only will strawberries be in season, but they will also be priced best and taste phenomenal. “Some locally produced food like eggs, milk and beans are good buys all year long. Canning or freezing is another way to take advantage of well-priced seasonal vegetables and fruit,” says Unlock Food. Furthermore, it’s also a great way to eat locally all year long.
3. Buying Local Supports Farmers
Buying local food provides income to farmers so they can keep farming. From buying directly from farmers, “you can ask them questions about their farming methods and pesticide use (if any). Local farmers typically focus on soil health and safe growing practices, especially if they’re farming organically,” says Virtua Health. That helps to create affordable, nutritious, high quality food for the future. According to Unlock Food, “While vegetables and fruit tend to be seasonal, there are many vegetables that are locally produced and available all year long like mushrooms, rutabaga, onions, sweet potato, sprouts, greenhouse lettuce and cucumber.”
4. Buying Local Preserves Farmland
When you buy local food, you are helping to preserve our valuable farmland for future generations. According to Farm to Table, “Well-managed farms conserve fertile soil, protect water sources, and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.” It is important to protect and preserve farmland because “farmland provides food and cover for wildlife, helps control flooding, protects wetlands and watersheds and maintains air quality,” says the Wisconsin State Farmer.
5. Buying Local has Variety
Local foods come in a great variety of different foods. According to the University of Washington, “Farmers who run CSA (community-supported agriculture) programs, sell at farmers markets, and provide food to local restaurants have the demand and the economic support for raising more types of produce and livestock.”
Now that you know all the benefits of buying locally grown foods, hopefully you are willing to give it a try! Unsure on how to do so? Check out these tips on how to eat more local food and where you can go to purchase local food.
4 Ways to Eat More Local Food:
1. Visit a Pick Your Own Farm
Ever been to a pick your own farm? My personal favorite is an apple orchard where you can pick your own apples. I love the variety of different apples you can get from an orchard, honey crisp, golden delicious, granny smith, and more. This is a great way to get out of the house and have a fun activity to do, all while eating locally! Find a local pick your own farm with this website.
2. Grow Your Own Local Food
Try growing your own local food in your backyard or even your kitchen. Herbs, tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, and kale are among the easiest things to grow. I grow tomatoes, black berries, blueberries, cantaloupe, zucchini, and squash in my backyard.
3. Visit A Local Farmer’s Market
Eat fresh and support your community by visiting a local farmers’ markets or on-farm market. According to the Farmers Market Coalition, “A farmers’ market is a physical retail marketplace intended to sell foods directly by farmers to consumers. Farmers’ markets may be indoors or outdoors and typically consist of booths, tables or stands where farmers sell their produce.” Many farmers markets are one day a week. I visit mine every Saturday morning. To find a market near you, visit this website.
4. Learn How To Prepare Local Food
When planning to cook local food, try to find recipes that use whatever is available at that moment. Another option is to choose a recipe and see how you can adapt it to accommodate seasonal items, says North Carolina State Extension. Furthermore, by purchasing locally grown food, you may encounter foods you have never tried before. Use a recipe finder such as AllRecipes.com to find new recipes that can incorporate these foods. Buying local food is a great way to try out new foods and recipes!
In conclusion, there are many different benefits of eating and purchasing locally grown foods, as well as many different ways on how to do so! What tips will you try out? Let us know by reaching out to @cookandculture.
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