I have sort of had an idea of how much some of the produce and meats we consume has to travel. But the effect it has on our environment and us sunk in to me more as I read this piece at sustainabletable's web site.
"Food miles" refer to the distance a food item travels from the farm to your home. The food miles for items you buy in the grocery store tend to be 27 times higher than the food miles for goods bought from local sources.i
In the U.S., the average grocery store’s produce travels nearly 1,500 miles between the farm where it was grown and your refrigerator.ii About 40% of our fruit is produced overseas and, even though broccoli is likely grown within 20 miles of the average American’s house, the broccoli we buy at the supermarket travels an average 1,800 miles to get there. Notably, 9% of our red meat comes from foreign countries, including locations as far away as Australia and New Zealand.iii
So how does our food travel from farm field to grocery store? It’s trucked across the country, hauled in freighter ships over oceans, and flown around the world.
A tremendous amount of fossil fuel is used to transport foods such long distances. Combustion of these fuels releases carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, particulate matter and other pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to global climate change, acid rain, smog and air pollution. Even the refrigeration required to keep your fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meats from spoiling too soon burns up energy.
Food processors also use a large amount of paper and plastic packaging to keep food fresh (or at least looking fresh) for a longer period of time. This packaging eventually becomes waste that is difficult, if not impossible, to reuse or recycle.
...Buying food from local farms means getting food when it’s at its prime. Fresh food from local farms is healthier than industrially-farmed products because the food doesn’t spend days in trucks and on store shelves losing nutrients.v Food transported short distances is fresher (and, therefore, safer) than food that travels long distances. Local food has less of an opportunity to wilt and rot whereas large-scale food manufacturers must go to extreme lengths to extend shelf-life since there is such a delay between harvest and consumption... Local foods from small farms usually undergo minimal processing, are produced in relatively small quantities, and are distributed within a few dozen miles of where they originate.
I am not trying to get preachy or anything, just saying if we could all try to more cognizant about how the food we eat arrives at our tables we may be better off in how we treat our land and environment. We try to do the right thing and buy as much local produce as we can once the growing seasons begin, and not everyone can do that.
It was at some point last spring that we discovered amongst the suburbia that we live in, there is also the “Highland Orchards Farm” a family owned farm that sits atop this small hill a couple of miles from where we live. This is on my jogging path too and is one of my favorite places to visit on the weekend. The farm has been with the family for years (more about their history at their web site here) and I love to pick up their fresh farm produce including veggies, and fruits and eggs. Even the meats they sell is from places over the state line in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.
A slide show of the pictures from the farm store is below.
Perhaps they are a bit more expensive than the chain grocery a few miles further down, but some things I am just more sentimental about I guess.
Some advantages of supporting a local farm from the sustainable table link…which has a lot of other info as well.
According to the USDA, the U.S. has lost over five million farms since 1935.vii Family farms are going out of business at break-neck speed, causing rural communities to deteriorate. The U.S. loses two acres of farmland each minute as cities and suburbs spread into the surrounding communities.viii By supporting local farms near suburban areas and around cities, you help keep farmers on the land, and, at the same time, preserve open spaces and counteract urban sprawl.