Farmers' markets will open this week in Tupelo and Oxford.
Already, salad and cooking greens, carrots and green peas are typifying the goodness of spring, and summer's bounty of tomatoes, sweet corn, beans, blueberries, peaches and watermelons – and dozens of other delights – isn't that far away.
Just in case those images don't entice you to find some local growers, here are a few other reasons. The principles come from “Growing for Market” newsletter; the elaborations are mine.
- Locally grown food tastes better.
When the average bite of food has traveled some 1,500 miles to get to an American's plate, it can't have the garden-fresh flavor of something grown in the next township.
- Local produce is better for you.
Ditto the mileage factor in nutrition. With most fresh foods, every day between harvest and the table means loss of nutrition.
- Local food preserves genetic diversity.
Small farmers often grow heirloom varieties offering flavors and textures you can't find in a store. It also means we don't end up with just a few genetic varieties bred for high production and long shelf life.
- Local food is more likely to be GMO-free.
Most of the vegetable varieties small farmers plant have been improved by saving seed from the healthiest plants, not sticking a gene from another plant – or even an animal – in them.
- Local food supports local farmers.
The agrarian lifestyle is a mix of interdependence, common sense, hard work and love for the land. Buying locally keeps farmers farming and keeps farms from disappearing.
- Local food builds community.
Farmers' markets are a good way to see old friends and make new ones. Getting to know the person who plants and harvests your food gives a whole new meaning to that post-9-11 term “food security.”
- Local food preserves open space.
Most of those picturesque barns, pastures, fields and animals around your area are there for one reason – someone's trying to make a living from them. Buying locally means middlemen don't take such a big cut of the price you pay for food, and those farmers can stay in business.
- Local food keeps your taxes in check.
Farmland typically provides more in taxes than it costs in services. That's a bargain for local governments.
- Local food supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife.
- Local food is about the future.
It keeps people farming who love their land, who care for it well and who'd probably like to pass it on to their own children someday.
Errol Castens writes from the Daily Journal's Oxford bureau. Contact him at 281-1069 or firstname.lastname@example.org