One of the many benefits of shopping at a farmers market is knowing where your food comes from. We know that supporting our local food system is good for our community’s economy, but did you also know that there are more reasons why you should care how far your food travels?
According to the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, it is estimated that the average American meal travels 1,500 miles to get from farm to table. We expect such distances when we talk about tropical foods like bananas and pineapples, but more conventional fruits and vegetables are grown thousands of miles away and shipped on planes and boats to eventually make it to your dinner plate.
Such long-distance, large scale transportation of food uses up a lot of fossil fuels. The concern is that fossil fuels, like coal, oil, and natural gas, are non-renewable sources of energy because they are depleted much faster than they can be made. The use of fossil fuels creates carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which contributes to climate change.
In order to transport produce long distances, much of it needs to be picked before it is ripe. Fruits and vegetables in this situation are often “ripened” by being exposed to gasses. Other methods used to “ripen” produce or keep produce stable during long trips include the use of chemical preservatives or radiation. Many scientists are also looking at ways to genetically modify produce to create fruits and vegetables that lasts longer and are less perishable.
How far your food travels can also affect its nutritional content. Some produce, like apples, peaches, and tomatoes, are able to ripen after they are picked. Others, like peppers, melons, and berries can only ripen on the vine. Picking these types of fruits and vegetables before they are ripe does decrease their nutrient content. Even produce that can ripen after being picked can lose its vitamin and mineral content after harvest. A University of California study found that some veggies lose 15-55% of their vitamin C within one week of harvest and that spinach can lose 90% of its vitamin C within 24 hours after being harvested!
All the produce vendors at the Ottawa County Farmers Market grow their food within a 75-mile radius of Miami. Often, produce is picked the night before or the morning of the market, which improves its freshness, nutrient content, and taste. Stop by the market every Thursday from 4-7pm May-October at 225 B St NW to see for yourself!
This week at the market expect blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries, green beans, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes, local honey, eggs, meat, baked goods, and handmade bath products. We are also having a special giveaway! Everyone will receive a free reusable tote bag (while supplies last). Our musical guest will be jazz guitarist Rich Roberts. The 2017 Intertribal Children’s Pow Wow organizers will be at the market with information about this great yearly event and Pow Wow-inspired crafts for the kids.