How often do you eat locally? How often do you eat seasonally? If you live in the United States chances are that most of your food doesn’t fit into these criteria.
Growing up I never thought much about the food I ate. I would eat from my parent’s garden in the summer but other than that all of the food I ate came from the grocery store. Many of us have become so accustomed to being able to eat any food at any time of the year that we don’t realize the full impact of these actions.
In the United States 53 percent of our fruit and 31 percent of our vegetables are imported! The agriculture industry is one of the leading causes of the climate crisis, with animal agriculture being the largest contributor within that industry. So, how can we help?
EAT SEASONALLY AND EAT LOCALLY AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.
When we eat what is in season, we are eating food that naturally grows during a give time of year. This often means it is easier to grow, requiring less resources than a non-seasonal item. When we choose to eat seasonally, we are often saving money because these items have less distance to travel. Seasonal items are often higher in nutrients than non-seasonal items due to their ability to thrive in the current conditions.
Eating locally means that our food has less distance to travel; pretty straight forward. This looks like getting food from a local farm/farmers market or growing your own food if you have the capacity to. Not only is shopping locally better for the planet, but it allows you the opportunity to connect with your local farms. You can get to know the process behind the food you eat and have a greater appreciation for what it takes to grow food.
The United States is quite a large country with a broad range of climates and terrain. This means that what is seasonal in Southern California won’t be the same as Northern Montana or rural Iowa. As a Pacific Northwest native, I’m going to be talking about how to shop seasonally if you’re living in the Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia area.
If you’re like me and you live somewhere where you experience changing seasons and freezing temperatures, it is important to note that it is nearly impossible to eat seasonally every month of the year. Even farmers markets that last throughout the year have a much smaller inventory during the winter months. What is still available is limited as it usually involves hydroponic and aquaponic grown food. Below are my top tips for how you can start to begin eating more locally, seasonally, and of course, sustainably.
PLANT A GARDEN
Planting a garden is one of the most apparent ways to eat seasonally. It truly doesn’t get more local than your own backyard. Not only is it an incredibly sustainable way to obtain your fruits and/or veggies, but it also puts into perspective the work it takes to grow food. When we appreciate the food we have, we are much less likely waste it. Wondering why food waste is a problem and how you can waste less? Check out my blog post all about it HERE.
Don’t have room to grow lots of veggies? Start an herb garden. While these can thrive outside on patios or yards in hotter months, they can also survive the winter inside so you can have fresh herbs year-round. Herbs are some of the hardest ingredients to find plastic free so growing your own will also help you cut back on your single use plastic.
A local farmers market is sort of a one stop shop when it comes to eating locally. It is also a great way to try new foods that are in season or ones that thrive in your local community. Especially when you are learning what is local in your area, a market can help connect you with experts. Get to know those at your market, ask what is in season, and what you can expect in the weeks to come. Use your time at the market to stock up on your fruit and veggies for the week ahead so that you can take fewer (or no) trips to the grocery store later in the week.
SEARCH FOR YOU-PICK FARMS
Here in the Pacific Northwest, summer means BERRY SEASON. However, berries at the grocery store often aren’t local and are most likely wrapped in plastic. Many berry farms have a “you-pick” section where you pick your own berries and they are often much cheaper. If you love berries year-round, buy in bulk when you pick and freeze them for the future.
LOCAL GROCERY STORES
Farmer’s markets are a privilege and they are also not available everywhere. If that is the case where you live, learn what is local and look for local farms. Even if your grocery store has a plethora of fruits and veggies, focus your shopping around items that are most likely seasonal for your area. Many grocery stores will feature local farms and list what items come from that farm.
REMEMBER YOUR REUSABLE BAGS
Shopping locally and seasonally is great but we also must remember to shop sustainably. Whether you are growing food, going to a market, stopping by a farm, or headed to your local grocery store, don’t forget to bring your reusable bags and jars. The best produce in life is plastic free.
Shopping seasonally may seem overwhelming at first but it doesn’t need to be. It is about making intentional decisions when it comes to our food choices and also practicing grace with yourself. A happy plate leads to a happy planet.
Find a Farmers Market near YOU
Seasonal Guide for PNW