Our family are joining this year’s 50% Local Food Club Challenge. We are committing to buy at least 50% of our food products from the Annapolis Valley and Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia has a million acres of farmed land and the largest number of certified Farm Markets per capita in Canada. We are so lucky to live where our food is produced. This number of markets does not even include all of the food at-the-gate and the end-of-driveway stands selling produce. Add to those all of the U-Picks farms and orchards, some within walking distance, and our family really have no reason to buy food from outside our abundant region.
Choosing to buy locally makes economic, environmental and social sense. Buying locally is the healthy choice.
Environmentally, local foods decrease food travel miles. Buying even a few foods locally decreases greenhouse gas emissions, the equivalent of removing 16,000 cars from the road each year. Buying local food also decreases the amount of packaging we throw in the landfill.
Economically, buying locally is a win-win situation for farmers and consumers. Buying from our own farmers keeps the money in our community, where it belongs. Our local agri-food industry adds $.5Billion to the provincial economy, creates more than 10,000 jobs, and enables spin-off businesses in retail and service. The health and sustainability of our rural economy depends on our communities’ commitment to local farmers. The better our farmers do, the better we all do.
The agri-food business is also important for our tourism industry. Tourists prefer eating in restaurants where local products are served. Our world-class chefs are excellent ambassadors for Nova Scotian food products. It is conceivable that some tourists come exclusively for the local food, which is a great addition to our economy.
Buying local products can also be less expensive in the long-run. Consumers, especially here in the Valley, are able to purchase all of their products when in season. We can pickle, can and freeze our own products for year-round consumption, thus avoiding the higher winter costs of imported meats, fruits and vegetables.
There are also social benefits to the buy-local movements. As direct consumers, we get to know and trust our farmers and build relationships from the fields to the table. When farmers know their consumers personally, and know we are all part of the same community, they endeavour to maintain top quality standards. Farm markets become areas for people to socialize, an additional healthy benefit to buying locally. Having a healthy relationship with our farmers can have positive effects on our mental and physical health and, in turn, on our education. Local farmers are more willing to address our needs and concerns, so we become active consumers.
The health benefits of buying from local food sources are innumerable. Food is our body’s fuel. The higher the quality of the fuel, the better and longer the body functions. Nova Scotia has highly regulated food safety measures to ensure best practices for our protection. As consumers, we are better able to make selections based on our own choice of the farming practices we can actually see, such as organic, fertiliser use, or genetically modifies crops, for example. When foods do not have to be coated, frozen or modified in order to travel great distances, our products are fresher, which usually translates into higher nutritional value. The shorter the distance between the field and the table, the better the food is for its main purpose: sustenance. Fresh food is the obvious healthy choice.
Although the 50% Food Club Initiative is easier for people in the Valley, consumers across the province are joining the challenge. On the nslocalfoodclub.wordpress.com website, there are recipes, suggestions, cooking classes and events to help us buy locally. They also list restaurants and retailers that use or sell local products. The map on their site shows where people are joining the challenge. I hope you all join the club (it’s free) and put Kings West on the map. Businesses can join, too.
Let’s not forget to alternate or supplement our meals with local fish, wine and condiments. Nova Scotia produces products for all diet choices, vegan, vegetarian, herbivore, omnivore and piscivore, too. Please join the challenge and become a locavore!