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10 Ways to Start Eating Local Foods

How to Eat Locally

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Eating locally has many benefits. But how can you get started? Here are 10 ways to get started buying and eating locally.

1. Learn What's In Season

Photo © Molly Watson

Knowing what's in season in your region will help you know what to expect at farmers markets and help you know which items at other markets and stores might be from local or regional sources (and which ones most definitely are not!).

2. Shop at Farmers Markets

Photo © Molly Watson

Shopping at farmers markets that feature locally grown products is a fun, easy way to increase the amount of local foods you purchase and eat. Not all farmers markets have the same guidelines, so check to see if stands are required to sell products grown or produced on local or regional farms. Be very suspicious of any market that features bananas – unless you're in Hawaii or Florida!

3. Join Community Supported Agriculture

Photo © Molly Watson

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) connects participants to a specific farm (or, sometimes, group of farms). You buy a share in a farm and, in return, you get a share of the harvest. You get the freshest, best produce the farm has to offer; the farm has a set of guaranteed sales and money up-front for seasonal expenses.

4. Shop at Stores That Label Food Origins

If you have a choice of markets, chose one that notes where it sources its products. In particular, look for signs marking the source of seafood, meat, poultry, and produce. Co-ops and health food stores are more likely to clearly denote the origins of the foods they carry, but conventional grocery stores are increasingly labeling their produce sections and meat and seafood counters.

No signs at your local market? Speak to the manager or section managers. Express your interest in locally grown and produced foods. Ask that any locally or regionally grown items at the store be so noted. You'll be surprised at how much good will rises up to meet genuine interest.

5. Shop the Perimeter of Grocery Stores

The aisles around the perimeter of grocery stores contain more ingredients than processed foods. Shop these perimeters for fresh produce, meats, and dairy--precisely those items that you can ask about their source and hopefully find some from near-by sources. Pay particular attention to the produce aisle: if you know your seasons, you may be able to find some locally or regionally grown items.

6. Get Ultra-Local: Plant a Garden

Growing your own food is the ultimate way to eat local. From a simple herb garden to prolific raised beds designed to feed a family, there are lots of ways to grow your own food.

7. Visit U-Picks & Farm Stands

For most city-dwellers, farm stands aren't an everyday food gathering solution. But when the opportunity presents itself, u-picks (where you go to a farm and pick your own produce) are a great source for large quantities of super-fresh produce.

8. Choose Restaurants That Source Locally

Frequent restaurants that buy from local and regional farms, growers, and purveyors and continue your support of local farmers and producers even when you eat out.

9. Frequent Locally-Owned Food Producers

Continue your support of a local food system by buying from artisans and locally-owned food producers such as bakeries, butchers, and coffee roasters for foods you don't cook at home or which aren't grown locally.

10. Buy Family Farmed or Fair Trade Products When Local Is Unavailable

Don't live near dairy cows? Buy milk from dairies that buy from family-owned farms. Live in the contiguous 48 states of the U.S. but find yourself unwilling to give up coffee? Buy coffee grown in sustainable ways by people who pay workers fairly.

Eating local foods is certainly about eating food grown closer to home, but it is also about being more aware of your food and how it gets to you.

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