In 1999, my late husband and I moved to a farm in Wabasha County from the Seattle area to begin the adventure of being organic market gardeners. We had been spurred to this action by the Earthkeepers group at our Episcopal Church in Washington state. Through the writings of Wendell Berry and Earth Ministry, we were awakened to the realities of corporate agriculture and about how we eat determines more than just our weight! Although we were not financially successful as organic farmers, we learned how important it is to eat locally and to support small, sustainable farmers. We in southeast Minnesota could grow so much of our food, but instead we grow corn and soybeans (for export and ethanol) and import our food — a potentially dangerous situation as we've seen recently with Chinese imports and the awareness that very little of our food is inspected as it enters the U.S.
Fortunately, more and more people are seeing the light, as farmers markets are becoming more popular, and many restaurants are sourcing local foods where possible. Even in the eight years I have lived in the Rochester area, I have seen the farmers market grow and retailers are supporting local farmers. I buy as much local food as I can and do my best to support these wonderful young farmers and spread the word to my friends.
I gladly pay more (when necessary) for local, sustainably grown food. It's worth more, so there is tremendous value in eating this way. I try to eat more in season, and will not serve strawberries in January. It can be a bit of a challenge sometimes to find ingredients in Rochester, and I usually take a cooler with me to the Twin Cities and shop at the co-ops there.
We gain so much by eating locally. By allowing farmers to earn a living wage (without government subsidies), our nearby land is kept as farmland and is less prone to development pressures. Also, if there is some type of disaster, we don't have to worry about transportation of our foodstuffs. I can't see anything more scary from a "homeland security" aspect than outsourcing our food supply and being at the mercy of other countries.
When you buy locally, not only is the food 1,500 miles fresher, but you develop a relationship with the farmer and know what goes into the production of your food. Local produce doesn't have the flavor bred out of it so that it can be shipped across the country. Various preservatives and waxes are not sprayed on them. It is food that tastes like real food. If you are a meat eater, you can determine how well the animals are treated and that the pound of hamburger you have purchased is not made from 100 different cows from who knows how many countries. It is a win-win situation of the highest order.
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