How often do you think about where your food comes from? Do you ever consider the land, air, water, sunshine, time, and hard work that went into growing and processing everything on your plate? What about the pesticides, fossil fuels, and labor exploitation that tend to accompany conventional agriculture? Before this summer, I rarely thought about any of this. I had occasionally heard people touting the benefits of buying local or eating organic foods, but all I knew was that the organic milk at the grocery store was more expensive than the regular kind. Why would I want to buy organic or go to the farmer’s market when all the produce I want is at Publix?
Well, it turns out that the benefits of eating local, organic foods is greater than I had ever considered. This summer, a combination of being a fellow at Feed & Seed, reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, and doing all my grocery shopping for myself for the first time opened my eyes to this new world. Feed & Seed is a non-profit food hub project aiming to make local food more accessible and available in the Upstate, especially in low-income neighborhoods like West Greenville. Construction has just begun on the Commons on Welborn Street, which will process and package tons of local farms’ products, with both retail and wholesale operations. Through this, residents of West Greenville and the city as a whole will have better access to local vegetables and meat, and small-scale farmers in the region will have a much bigger market for their products. Part of my job as the community outreach fellow is finding out exactly what the neighborhood wants, so we can cater to their needs and desires in the best way possible.
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is an account of the Kingsolver family eating only local foods for a whole year. They grew much of their own food and bought only what had been produced within their county. As I read the book, I learned an incredible amount about food, and I recommend the book to everyone. I learned about the costs of having every type of food available in the grocery store, no matter the season. These include large amounts of fossil fuel used in transport, reduced nutritional value and taste, increased pesticide use, unsustainable farming practices, destructive land use, and a lot more. The book inspired me to buy as much local produce as I can (and the Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery is certainly a fun place to do that!). Buying local food puts money back into the city’s economy, ensures the stability and long-term viability of small-scale family farmers, provides a wider selection of varieties to choose from, and is overall more sustainable. So, next time you’re grabbing your reusable bag to head to the grocery store, stop and consider where the best place to buy produce from is. It could be right next door.