Why Local Farming is Better for the Environment—and Your Plate
Most people don't give much thought to where their food comes from. They go to the grocery store, pick out what they need, and then head home without a second thought. But have you ever stopped to consider the journey your food has taken to get to your plate? If you're like most Americans, the answer is probably "no."
The majority of the food we eat in the United States is produced via industrial farming, which is a type of farming that relies heavily on mechanization, monocropping, and chemical fertilizers and pesticides. This method of farming is incredibly efficient at producing large quantities of food—but it comes at a cost. Industrial farming takes a toll on the environment, and the food it produces is often less nutritious than food from local farms and local farming practices.
What is Local Farming?
Local farming is a type of agriculture that involves growing crops and raising livestock within a relatively small radius. The term "local" can mean different things in different parts of the country—typically, anything grown within 100 miles of its point of sale would be considered local farming.
In contrast to industrial farming, local farming production is often smaller in scale and utilizes more sustainable growing practices. This includes using natural fertilizers like compost, rotational grazing for livestock, and planting cover crops to improve soil health. Local farming practices also tend to use less water than their industrial counterparts; in fact, one study found that locally grown lettuce required 95% less water than industrially grown lettuce.
Why Should You Care About Local Farming?
There are three main reasons why you should care about supporting your local farming businesses: environmental sustainability, animal welfare, and nutrition.
When it comes to environmental sustainability, local farming practices have a significant advantage over industrial farms. As we mentioned before, local farming tends to use sustainable growing practices that help protect delicate ecosystems. For example, by planting cover crops and using rotational grazing techniques, local farming practices can help reduce soil erosion and water pollution.
Animal welfare is another important consideration when choosing whether to support local farming practices. Animals raised on industrial farms are often kept in cramped conditions with little room to move around. They may also be given growth hormones and antibiotics to help them grow faster and stay healthy in unsanitary conditions.
With local farming, animals are typically given more space to roam and aren't subjected to routine antibiotic treatments. As a result, they lead happier and healthier lives—and their meat tastes better as a result.
Then there's the issue of nutrition. When you buy locally grown food, you can be sure that it's fresh—which means it retains more nutrients than food that has been shipped long distances. Local fruits and vegetables also tend to be attacking more vitamins and minerals than those grown via industrial agriculture because they're typically allowed to ripen fully on the vine or tree before being harvested.
The next time you're at the grocery store or farmers market, take a moment to think about where your food came from—and consider supporting local farming productions in your area by purchasing their products. Buying locally grown food is good for the environment, animal welfare, and your own health—so it's a win-win all around!
At Four Roots we provide targeted programming and education that seeks to strengthen local farming industries and economic systems of Inland Northwest communities. Visit our website to learn more about us and to find out can you can support local farming in your area today.