Buy and Eat Local
Buying Local in Lancaster: Where, What, When, Why and How
Buying local and fresh can help improve the local economy and sustainability, your health, and the enviorment. There is plently information regarding those benefits, aong with the specifics about certain produce, and easy ways to go about buying local. Promoting local food and providers will help you know where to go to become more supportive of the movement. Frequently ask questions are posted with answers about the environmental benefits. Also the Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter of Lancaster and Community Supported Agriculture Programs are highlightedif you are looking to get involved in the community. The iMovie will provide information of the best food for each season so people know what and when is the best to buy.
What Does Local Mean?
Recently there has been a lot of talk about being more “green”, eating organically, and buying local foods, so it is important to understand and be aware of what and how to shop for your produce. When buying food it is important to look for locally grown produce, but what does that mean?
Local and food, two words that alone and separate make perfect sense and are easily defined. Local is an adjective that is related to the characteristic of, or restricted to a particular place(s). Food is a noun that is a substance that can be eaten, drunk, or is taken into the body. It is pretty simple right? When the two are put together; however, there seems to be a large amount of confusion.
Depending on whom you ask you will get an array of different answers of what local food means. Although you will get all various answers, there will be some common themes. Many people have numerous ideas and definitions for local food, and it all depends on who you ask. If you are asking a local famers’ market and a large retailer you will see the difference.
The main reason for all this confusion is because, unlike organic food, there are strict regulations on what is and can be considered local. We want to sort through all the clutter and be able to define, for Lancaster County, what is means to be local.
Local foods can be thought of in steps or rings that grow off each other for where to start to know it’s local, and where is the next best place to go. A good way to know for sure if it is local is to start at the home.
Growing your own food will give you the following benefits:
Not having to worry about where to go, what produce to buy, and how it is grown
You can plant what you and your family eat the most
You can monitor the harvesting process
You can save money
Although it is a great idea to grown your own foods and it can be a fun activity for kids, most families will not grow all their own food. Where to go next? What would be the next step or ring in this web of local food shopping?
After starting at home, a good way to know it is local is to stay in your immediate community, in this case being Lancaster County. When focusing on Lancaster County, the main criteria for considering food local, that many people use is anything that is grown and comes from within 100 miles.
Another way to define it without having to track miles, is that to be considered local it should come from Lancaster County or a continuous county. Moving outward toward York, Berks, and Chester would be the next step in finding the most local food. If you must look past Lancaster and the connecting counties, the next ring would be to stay in Pennsylvania.
If you must go further to find the local food you need you should stay in the region, and ultimately the country. You may need to keep looking further and further because some products are less common to the community while others thrive in climates that are specific to Lancaster.
As stated before, there is a difference between local farmer’s market definitions and retailers where you may shop for other products for your family and home. Whole Foods, which is one of the biggest retailers of natural and organic foods, considers local to be anything produced within seven hours of one of its stores. The retailer says most local producers are within 200 miles of a store. As you can see there is a difference between shopping in your local community at a farmers market, and shopping at a nationwide chain.
Overall giving local food one set definition can be very challenging. However, that does not mean that shopping and supporting local sellers and farmers can’t be very simple. There are plenty of information available that can show you where to start and what to look for that can make buying local very possible, and very easy.
Check out the rest of the website to find the reasoning and benefits of buying local, along with answers to some top questions when it comes to buying local foods. Also, take a look at the list of places to go in Lancaster that can help you get on your way to buying local
Buy Fresh Buy Local
Buy Fresh Buy Local is a program that promotes and celebrates locally grown food. It is a nationwide program that is managed by the FoodRoutes Network. Pennsylvania chapters are organized by the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). It gives so many resources, ideas, tips, and facts about local food. They make is easier for people to find local food around them and helps to support farmers, land, and farmers markets. As a program they produce a food guide, hold tasting events, coordinate farm tours, and other activities that are based around the local community and food.
There is a 'Buy Fresh, Buy Local' for each state and within those states there are chapters for the different regions in Pennsylvania. Each chapter is managed by a association of partnering organizations that are supported the community and local volunteers.
To join the Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter for your region you must register online which will give you access to many extra opportunities that you obtain as a member.
As a member you get easy access to local food events, view and search different recipes, and gain access to blogs of local food providers.
Another part of Buy Fresh Buy Local is the ability for local food providers to join and become members in order to get all the benefits and promote themselves as part of the Buy Fresh Buy Local program. Farms, farmers market, stores, restaurants, caterers, and business that sell food or other products grown in Pennsylvania are eligible to apply.
As a member you can be placed in the food guide, which is open to the community and allows your business to be promoted and advertised. There is also a marketplace to buy different items such as t-shirts, bumper stickers, and hats that support the program. Along with the food guide and market place, you can access great recipes so you can create great meals with your local food.
Photo by Katie Mackereth
Lancaster’s chapter of Buy Fresh Buy Local is lead locally by The Local Economy Center of Franklin and Marshall College. As a chapter it tries to increase the demand for locally produced food in Lancaster County, and helps to strengthen the local food system that helps to link families, farmers, markets, restaurants, and other intuitions with local farmers. They also educate the public about local foods, giving resources on how and why to buy local in Lancaster, along with increasing their access to the producers.
To know if the product or place you’re eating and shopping at sells locally grown food you can look for the Buy Fresh Buy Local. There is a label that is place on packages, menus at restaurants, at farmers markets, and in stores.
Lancaster county Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter sponsors events in order to help support the program and the local community. You can also join the e-mail list in order to receive all the news and events that are going on through the season with Buy Fresh Buy Local. You can join and support the Lancaster Buy Fresh Buy Local in order to help the community connect with local farmers and to become a more sustainable county.
Why to Buy Local: Top 10 Reasons
1. Local Food Tastes Better
The reason that local foods seem to taste better has to do with the amount of travel and time that the food goes through. Compared to non-local foods, the time it takes for local foods to get onto your plate is dramatically less. When foods are delayed from their harvest time to the table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality. This all can occur when the delay is a week or longer. Local food takes less time therefore, all the nutrients, flavor, and color is preserved in the food. Local food is picked at their peak, is more crisp, and the appearance just looks better for you. Buy local and pay for the taste, not the transportation.
2. Local Food is Better for You
The biggest reason that local food is better for you is because it retains its nutrients. Just as it affects the taste, the longer distance traveled, the more nutrients are lost. Along with retaining nutrients, local foods are normally pesticide free. Knowing where your food comes from allows you to buy from farmers who avoid pesticides, harmful chemicals, genetically modified seeds, and antibiotics.
3. Local Food is GMO-Free
GMO stands for genetically modified organism. When dealing with food it means that the food is genetically modified and goes through bioengineering. Bioengineering companies however, are commercializing genetically modified seeds for fruits and vegetable, saving them for large style factories. Local farmers then do not have access to the seeds and cannot use them when growing their produce. So to be sure that you are not eating bioengineered food, stick with local and eat the natural way.
4. Local Foods Support Family Farms
The amounts of famers that farm for a living are decreasing due to the amount they are paid for their services. When farmers sell for commodity to large vendors they get less than 10 cents of the retail price. However, local farmers sell right to the customer, cutting out the middle man and getting the full price for their service. Buying right from local farmers’ helps them afford to stay working on their farms and growing the fresh produce.
5. Local Food Strengthens Communities
Buying directly from the farmer helps to build and foster relationships within the community. It allows you to know the farms, what is being grown, and other insight that can be pasted on to neighbors and your children. Another way it helps is by keeping the money circulating through the community. Buying from your local farmer allows your money to stay in the community you buy from and therefore, the famers can produce goods that are needed. You will feel more secure to know where your money is going compared to buying from chain retailers.
6. Local Foods Preserve Open Space
Large open fields of crops, meadows, and large red barns are what everybody loves to see when driving into the country. Those agricultural landscapes can only survive and prosper when the famers are financially taken care of. By buying local foods directly from the farmers, you are helping to finance those farms and preserving those agricultural landscapes.
7. Local Foods Protect the Environment
Local food travels less than others. By decreasing the amount of miles the food travels in vehicles, you decrease the amount of carbon dioxide that is emitted into the air. Also the amount of plastics and other packing materials is decreased with local foods. Compared to factories and industries that produce food, local farming does not emit as many gases that can lead to problems with global warming.
8. Local Food Protects Wildlife
Buying local foods help to support farmers and their farmland. By saving the agricultural landscape, not only are you helping out the community but you are helping the wildlife. Farm land such as meadows, ponds, fields, and woods are home to many animals, so by saving the land you are saving their home. Also, because local farms do not use pesticides they are not emitting the negative chemicals into the air and affecting the wildlife.
9. Local Food Puts Your Taxes to Good Use
Local businesses such as local farms require less infrastructure investment by the government. When the government spends less on these services, the people are taxed less. The government makes more efficient use of public services like local farms compared to nationally owned stores. By supporting local farms you are supporting lower taxes for the community.
10. Local Food Protects the Future
By supporting your local farmers and buying local food, you will protect the future for you and your children. Your support and money will allow the farms to stay alive and be present tomorrow; therefore, everyone will have access to all the benefits of local farming and food.
Photos by Katie Mackereth
Frequently Asked Questions
Environmental and Economic Benefits of Buying Local
1. Can buying local foods help to decrease the global warming process?
Yes. When you buy local foods you are buying food that has traveled less distance to get to the shelves. Since local foods travel within a 100 miles radius of where they are sold, that decreases the carbon dioxide emission from the trucks.
2. How can buying local foods help the economy in Lancaster County?
Buying local helps to keeps the money circulating within the community, and it will ensure that your money is going to actual farmers in support of small local farms instead of large outside corporations
3. How can you be sure that the local food is actually local, and is the safest?
The largest benefit of buying local is that you can talk directly with the farmer which not only helps to understand where your food is coming from, but also allows you to foster relationships and build a stronger community. You can then choose from farmers that you speak to and trust.
4. How do organic farmers benefit the Earth?
Organic farmers do not use pesticides and other harmful chemicals. Many farmers use man-made chemicals to fertilize, and by decreasing the amount that is used it decreases the consumption of fossil fuels and other global warming gases. Also, not using pesticide helps to decrease the amount of harm to plants and wildlife that would otherwise be in the air and ground.
5. Is buying local foods more expensive?
Not necessarily. Many times many people see local/organic food as high priced items. However, there is a “food boutique” market that is in many high income areas but if you buy locally in Lancaster it can be very affordable. There are obvious financial benefits from mass production but you lose of the freshness and quality you get from local foods.
Photo by Katie Mackereth
Genetic Diversity and Buying Local
Genetic Diversity is a large topic and idea in the world of buying local and organic food. Genetic diversity is the variation of heritable characteristics present in a population of the same species. It serves as an important role in evolution by allowing a species to adapt to a new environment and to fight off parasites. In general it is the number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species.
So what does this have to do with buying local you may ask. In industrial farming they must choose only a few varieties that can withstand the harvesting equipment, the vigorous packing and shipping protocol, and one’s that can live a long shelf live.
Only a select few vegetables and fruits meet those demands; and therefore, they lose the genetic diversity in what is grown. When these fruits and vegetables lose the genetic diversity they do not only lose the nutrition value and their appearance, but it also affects their ability to withstand temperature, pests, and diseases. With all the susceptibility to diseases and pests, they could wipe out the entire harvest and ultimately they can become extinct.
So how can buying from local farmers save the genetic diversity in our agriculture? Local farming does not have to worry about all the demands that industrial farming does, such as the packing and shipping needs. Local farmers grow a large variety of fruits, vegetables, and plants that will have a long season of harvest, and produce better flavor and nutrition. These varieties are passed down from other generations and contain the genetic makeup from many of years ago.
The genetic diversity helps to protect not only the land but it saves the food from the pests and disease. This protection will save the harvesting of good, nutritional produce that has the best flavor and the most benefit to the world’s agriculture.
The Health Benefits of Buying Local
The Effects of Pesticides/Chemicals
Pesticides are used in farming to kill insects, bacteria, and fungus. They are used to help protect the fruit and vegetables so they can be sold; however, many are skeptical because they can be very harmful for humans, animals, and the environment. Fruits and vegetables contain the most amounts of pesticides and chemicals compared to other food.
By buying locally grown and organic food you can help to protect your family from pesticides, or lower your chance of eating produce contaminated with pesticides. There is produce that has the most amount of pesticides and chemicals and that you should always try to buy locally and organic.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), this is a list of the twenty fruits and vegetables that contain the most pesticides in order from greatest to the ones with the least amount of chemical interaction:
Sweet Bell Peppers
The fruits and vegetables with the least amount of pesticides according to the Environmental Working Group are listed from the ones contain the least amount of pesticides first:
Frozen Sweet Corn
Frozen Sweet Peas
Although there is a list with common fruits and vegetables that have more than others, all produce has some level of pesticides. Pesticides are regulated and only a certain amount can be used, but those regulated levels can still have a negative effect on humans. Many levels can be toxic for children and pregnant women especially.
There have been many studies done to show that pesticides can be linked to the following:
weakened immune system
skin and eye irritation
nervous system disorders
Pesticides used can also harm animals and the environment. Some of the pesticides that are not harmful to humans can have negative effects on birds and aquatic life. They get affected by drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food, breathing in air filled with pesticides, and having it absorbed through their skin. It all depends on the amount of pesticides they come in contact with and the toxicity of those pesticides. Many pesticides travel through the air, run off into local water, and sink into the soil, causing damage to the ground and food wildlife use to survive.
A great way to reduce your risk of coming in contact with pesticides and other harmful chemicals and to save the wildlife is to buy locally grown food. Local farmers produce their food without using harmful chemicals and pesticides which helps to prevent pesticide contamination in the community. Because local farmers do their own farming and don’t do have produce their food for large retailers they grow with natural fertilizers and stay away from pesticides.
There will always be pesticides in the air, traveling through the wind, but the amount decreases significantly with local produce. Buying from your local farms and farmers can help to save the life of you and your loved ones, and also the animals and environment around you.
Nutrition Loss and Benefits
Fruits and vegetables are crucial to a healthy diet because they are packed with nutrients that help to support the body. Many fruits and vegetables are not only pack with nutrients but also are easy and delicious ways to get the perfect amount of vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants. When you buy the produce from local farmers markets and produce stands you get them at their peak form.
When you buy from retail stores the produce is from hundreds of miles away and it takes over a week from the time it is pick to be package and ship to the store, and can then sit on the shelves even longer. During that time the nutrients is loss from the produce and what you buy and eat has a significant amount less of all those vitamins and antioxidants. Also, many times those fruits and vegetables are picked too early so they do not rot by the time they get to the store shelves.
When the produce is picked too early they do not get to reach their fullest nutritional potential. Once food is picked from the Earth the essential vitamins, such as A, C, and E begin to deteriorate. Many factors affect the nutrient loss but such aspects like temperature change, artificial light and the exposure to air are a large problem with retailers. These are all exposed to fruits and vegetables when they are produced by large food chains and are decreased when produced on local farms.
Local farming produces fruits and vegetables that hold more nutrients, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants then large retailers. Due to the planting, picking, packaging, shipping, and shelf life differences between the two, the super market produce has less nutritional value. Buying local foods can help you and your family to eat healthier, along with tastier.
Photo by Katie Mackereth
Tips and Ideas for Eating a Healthier Local Diet
Eating a fresh, local diet can help improve digestion and disturbed sleep.
Wash all fruits and vegetables to help rid of as many pesticides as possible, but it will not eliminate all pesticides. If you are really concerned, peel the skin off the produce, although you will be losing nutritional value.
There is special soap made specifically for fruits and vegetables that when used for washing can eliminate pesticides, dirt, mold and other types of residue found on produce these days.
Tomatoes that are mass produced are usually picked green, and can take up to two weeks to get the store shelves. If they're not ripe, they are forced to ripen by being exposed to ethylene.
Fruits and vegetables that are not in season are usually treated with chemicals to keep it looking and tasting fresh. Try to eat fruits and vegetables that are in season.
Grow your own food to ensure no chemicals and pesticides are used.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs
Community supported agriculture are programs set up to help provide a direct link between consumers and their local farmers. The program works by having consumers pay a share each season that goes toward the local farmers crops. It allows the farmers to afford the water, seeds, and equipment that are used for producing their produce.
If you are a member, each week during the harvest time the farmer will deliver the consumer’s share to a specific location, or the consumer will pick it up directly at the farm. It provides a great way for consumers in the community to try different vegetables that they may normally not get the chance to eat. It also helps to strengthen the community and build great relationships. The idea is almost like buying a membership for a club, this club being the farm, and getting a weekly return of fresh vegetables and sometimes other products.
The advantages of Community Supported Agriculture programs for farmers is that it helps them to market their produce early, helps their cash flow by receiving money early in the season, and allows them to know who they are growing their food for.
The advantages of CSA for consumers who buy the shares is that they receive fresh food and are exposed to new vegetables. They are able to visit the farm and understand how their food is grown, and they can also foster a relationship with their local farmer.
Overall the community supported agriculture programs help to expose the community to new, local foods, support the farms and the farmer, and foster relationships within the community. You can join the CSA for Lancaster by looking online to download the membership application, and get on your way to help support the local food movement.
Shopping at Farmers Markets
One of the easiest ways to enjoy local foods and to help support the local farmers is to shop and buy from local farmers markets. A large benefit for shopping at farmers markets is that it allows you to know where you food comes from, how it was harvest, and because the farmer is usually right there it is simple to ask. When shopping at farmers markets there are ways to go about it that will make your experience better, and have you leaving with the best tasting food.
You should know the seasons for fruits and vegetables in the region. You should know what is grown at that time in your area, and ask the grower what will be harvest and out in the market in the upcoming weeks. This allows you to have the fruits and vegetables at their peak freshness when they will have the highest nutritional value and the best, most crisp taste and flavor. You can then plan for your future trips, and know what you will buy and what you can cook with the fresh, great tasting produce. There are fruits and vegetables to look for during each season that will enhance your experience of buying local.
Another great tip for shopping at local farmers markets is to go earlier in the morning to get a hold of the best produce. There may be selections that are more popular due to the season or the produces rareness, so they will go quick once they are out in the market. If you want the best deals however, you should go to your local farmers markets later in the day and evening. Many owners do not like to re-load there trucks with left over produce so they are willing to make deals and give discounts as the evening comes and there is produce left over.
Buying in bulk is a great way to get the most for your money when shopping at farmers markets. If you purchase whatever is at its harvest peak, it is the best to buy in large amounts. When buying in bulk though, do not let the great fruit and vegetables go to waste. A great way to preserve extra produce is to freeze, dry, and can them in order to maintain all their seasonal freshness.
There are no rules for shopping at your local farmers market, but there are ways to make it better. Follow some of those tips and have a better experience when buying local. Also, do not be afraid to ask for advice from the farmers themselves. Ask questions about your food, and when there are new fruits and vegetables that you have never tried ask how to prepare and eat them. Look online for farmers markets near you and search for the fruits and vegetables that are in season so you can enjoy buying and eating local.
As a community, an individual, and a family member there are many reasons to buy locally grown food. By buying local foods you are helping to improve the community whether it is benefiting the economy or helping to build and foster relationships, buying local can help.
To keep the environment safe and better for future generations, you can shop at local farmers markets where they use less pesticides in the produce, and the food travels a smaller distance eliminating carbon dioxide emission.
You can also improve your health and gain nutritional benefits such as more vitamins and antioxidants from eating local foods. Local food producers make sure they keep a diverse amount of produce to sell and that intern keeps the genetic diversity alive. To help support the local food movement in Lancaster you can join the Buy Fresh Buy Local chapter, shop at farmers markets, and support the local CSA programs.
Photo by Katie Mackereth
Where to Buy Local
The following list is a breakdown of the amount of places available around Lancaster County for you to check out and support the Buy Fresh Buy Local Lancaster County chapter:
11 Farmers Markets
6 Restaurants and Caterers
7 Retail Stores
2 Wineries and Breweries
To find a list of all the places in Lancaster County to buy local foods, or support business that use only local products visit the Buy Fresh Buy Local Lancaster website and click on the Food Guide.