Writer / Meredith Iacocca
When you think of eating seasonally and sourcing locally at your local Farmer’s Market, you probably don’t get as excited to go in the dead of winter than you would during the peak of summer. Fresh tomatoes! Sweet Corn! Peppers galore!
Yes, the summer seasons of produce do provide us with some beautiful, tasty produce. But what about the rest of the year? We tend to forget that there still is delicious produce to be had all through the year.
It’s easy to miss what’s close by and why it’s so important, maybe because we have the enormous privilege and ability to have almost any type of food all year round. Tropical fruit, avocados, berries, you name it. It is absolutely a privilege that not all countries have. But why does it matter to eat seasonally? It’s so much easier to just run to the store and grab what you need. Sourcing your food seasonally and locally, however, can have great nutritional and economic advantages.
Let’s first take a deeper look at how your food gets from the field to your plate. If you’re buying an avocado in January in the Midwest, chances are that avocado is coming from Mexico or even south America. Picked from the trees, packed into trucks, sent to a packaging facility, then to a distributor, a retailer and finally, to you. Hundreds, probably even thousands of miles away. That’s no short trip!
Now think about transportation. How many miles did that avocado really travel? What was the carbon footprint? Trucking is the second largest carbon emitter next to air travel in regard to U.S transportation. Not to mention, the avocados must be held at specific temperatures to encourage ripening so that they don’t over-ripen before they reach the consumer. That temperature control need also uses more energy. Also, thousands of gallons taken to support the avocado orchard in the first place can drain natural resources too. Now, I’m not suggesting we boycott avocados and never eat one again, but I want you to understand how much energy is put into one little fruit that we are so used to having available everywhere. It is extremely important to be conscious of the ‘How’ and ‘Where.’
Contrast the long and expensive journey of your avocado to food we have right in our backyard.
In the Midwest, the winter is great especially for hearty root vegetables and rich greens. Often, we may feel too intimidated to buy more local produce in colder seasons because we may not know what do to with it or how to prepare it. What the heck can you do with a Rutabaga? How can turnips possibly taste yummy? Often, these nutrient-dense root vegetables can be easy replacements for more common ones like potatoes! I encourage you to simply google whatever new vegetable you want to try and you will be introduced to a slew of ideas of how to make them delicious. There are endless possibilities.
Along with trying new foods, foods that are grown in season and in healthy soil create a richer, more nutrient-dense product. Often when we tune in to the seasonality of food, what is available is often exactly what we need to keep us healthy. Why do we eat soups when we’re sick? It’s been suggested the healing properties of bone broth is one of the reasons why we turn to soup. This is even more beneficial in the colder seasons when everyone around us has a cough or the flu. Eating nutrient-dense foods is one of the simplest ways to boost your body’s immune system and fight off illness.
Finally, what may be the most important aspect of eating seasonally is how much more of your money goes back into your very own community. When you shop locally, on average 48% of each purchase gets recirculated locally compared to less than 14% at a chain retailer. Dollar for dollar, your money has greater impact when it stays close to home.
It may be easier or more convenient to just head to your local chain retailer for food but know that your dollars count. Your dollars impact your health, your community and the people within it. Don’t be intimidated to embrace a new vegetable, learn what your region grows and support it!