Consumer demand for locally grown agricultural products is on the rise. Consumers perceive locally grown products to be fresher and taste better because they travel less distance and are picked ripe rather than being induced to ripen in boxes. Buying local helps the local agricultural economy and preserves open spaces. Supporting local family farms ensures that the land will be well maintained and in a manner that will sustain its productivity; many local family farms have taken this a step further by going organic. Because of recent media regarding global warming due to carbon emissions, many consumers understand that buying local gives them an opportunity to reshape the food chain in a way that will reduce carbon emissions resulting from shipping products across the country or the globe. Increasingly, consumers are visiting farmers markets and farm stands or requesting that their local supermarkets carry local products.
Recent studies reported in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer indicate that as crop yields have increased, nutrition levels and taste have generally declined. To improve profitability farmers have resorted to a variety of practices to increase yields. “Agriculture’s almost single-minded focus on increasing yields created a blind spot” in nutritional content, said Brian Halweil, a senior researcher at the World Watch Institute. Donald Davis, a senior researcher at the University of Texas compared USDA figures on nutritional content for 43 commonly eaten fruits and vegetables over a 50 to 70 year span. Nutritional content declines ranged from 5% to 40%. Davis’ research makes clear that as agricultural production has become larger in scale, nutrition and taste have been sacrificed.
Consumers are now demanding more fresh, nutritionally rich foods and view locally produced products as a way to satisfy that demand. Agricultural producers and food providers that understand and respond to this growing demand will provide a valuable and rewarding service for future generations.
“Taste, nutrients decline as size of crops grows.” Andrew Schneider, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, September 21, 2007