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What will you be having tonight? Local Seasonal Produce?

Fresh Local Seasonal Produce? Food straight from the farm recently picked and looking so tasty? Farm Markets offer that option. The local Farm stall on the side of the road may just have some fresh eggs left, or how about a day out in the fresh air and go and Pick Your Own?

There is so much more to eating fresh local seasonal produce though. We all eat food to nourish our bodies, feed our minds and ensure we have enough energy to make it to our next meal is the number one goal, but what if the food you ate didn’t hold as much value to your body?

Stored Produce

It had never occurred to me that an apple could be stored in an airless environment for up to nine months and then sold in a supermarket. Logically, we are collecting the harvest and redistributing the food throughout the year, but what are the nutritional benefits to us if we eat an apple 9-10 months old? (see Guardian source)

It would seem to me that some (at the very least) of the nutrition will have been lost while the fruit just sat there. Then there are the added waxes to stop bigs getting at the fruit and of course chlorine to wash them beforehand. It is necessary to store food for later on in the year, but this all seems very extreme.

Seasonal Produce

Market, food, surplus, stall, fresh, organic, honey, jam, homemade, Local Seasonal ProduceA feature of our bodies as they have ‘evolved’ and adapted to our environments is the requirements for a variety of different vitamins and minerals throughout the year. The Victoria State Government in Australia recommends a healthy variable diet. (Source) Not only because eating a variety means you don’t get bored with your food, but each item of food brings with it a different combination of nutrients too.

Eating seasonal foods, not only ensure you are eating the freshest foods you can eat, but there is the added bonus that the foods harvested at that time best suit our bodies for the time of year. Rebootwithjoe suggests that eating seasonally helps to support the body’s natural nutritional needs. The 3 N’s as they will be called.

In summer we need foods that allow us to move around quickly but do not cause us to overheat or feel too bloated. Compare eating a salad on a hot day with a thick potato soup. Your body feels better from the salad. Same in winter, this time you need the warmth and the starches to maintain your energy while the body tries to keep warm. It so happens that nature (or rather we) has grown to offer the main necessities within that season. Go figure!

Local Produce

Local foods have a an environmental benefit too. If I am harvesting food within a 5 mile(7.5 km) radius of my home it is logical to me that the cost of transport is reduced. That is after I take into account the fact that bulk movement is cheaper initially. Lets work some things out…

First lets look at bulk food movement.

Market, food, surplus, stall, fresh, organic, honey, jam, homemade, Local Seasonal ProduceThere is the initial impact that a farm needs to be very large to support the demand for mass production. (Environmental impact on nature is horrendous, but that is for another day). There are the pesticides, the fuel used to irrigate and harvest, and the storage of the food once harvest in massive refrigerated warehouses.

Then the bulk movement from farm warehouse or central depot to sorting houses or cold storage. (more electricity and fuel used, not to mention vehicle wear and tear and pollution) Then there are the ships which move a huge bulk of food around the planet. Good in small doses but now number in such large number the ocean seems full with ships.

Finally, the end transport from ship to main warehouse for final distribution by truck to the store, where it needs to be kept refrigerated and even on the shop floor is still being tended too. We could even consider food waste throughout this process too, as at each stage there is some spoilage.

Local food movement.

Again we need to consider the cost of farm machinery and fuel to tend to these crops, but on a smaller scale offer less impact. The harvest can be done in stages as the product goes to market. Then there is the cost of transport to the market. No continuous storage and refrigeration costs but rather food direct from farm to plate.

Food wastage is reduced as a market supports the local community and with an awareness of what is bought and sold within a matter of weeks the right amount is brought to meet demand.

Oh, and in case we need to factor in the customer transport from home to market, this often is reduced because local markets are within walking distance or inspire people to ‘share’ a trip to buy fresh food. Unlike a supermarket journey.

Social Benefits

Market, food, surplus, stall, fresh, organic, honey, jam, homemade, Local Seasonal ProduceWho would have thought going down to a place you can meet and chat to others, or just mingle could improve your health too. Unlike supermarkets where you are trying to be sold at every aisle turn a product you don’t need, a Farm Market offers variety of choice, you can find the best or the most acceptable to your own eye.

Then there is the chat with the people who is knowledgeable about their food product. Not a poor assistant who’s been told to pack a shelf and doesn’t know what an artichoke can be used for. (A recipe perhaps?) The seller at a market or farm stall knows what they’re selling. They bought the product there, they knew it’s journey and often have been involved in the process of the harvest too.

The social benefits to talking with others has long been know to improve mental health. The NHS in the UK suggests there are benefits to socialising too (Source) A market or meeting of another person allows us to be part of a community. To see what others are like. Perhaps they are struggling, the neighbourhood the last time you looked didn’t look quite so run down, or just being part of a common group of folks and feel the sense of belonging all contribute to a better you.

Finally let’s not forget the health benefits from being active. Being able to walk around and having to carry food. That all contributes to body exercise and you will also notice an acute correlation to what you buy and carry. You will carry what you think you need, often far less than pushing a trolley about and filling it up.

Final thoughts on Local Seasonal Produce

Our fresh Local Seasonal Produce offer us so much more than just another meal on the plate. From getting the freshest to making ourselves active, they really are an important part of society. We shouldn’t loose that option. For a better, happier, healthier you, why not visit a market this week. You never know what you might find!