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Local Foods Have Many Benefits

Posted 7/28/2015 3:34pm by Ann Houghton.

There is a growing movement across the nation to eat locally produced food. Now that it is the height of summer, many varieties of heirloom and other fresh produce grown here in Scott County are available. Farmers’ Markets, community gardens, farm stands, and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) provide the opportunity for local residents to buy local and know directly where their food is coming from. 

Individuals and organizations are joining together like never before to promote healthy eating. Locally produced food is better for the environment because when food is produced locally, fuel costs are reduced as well as emissions from transport trucks. Expensive packing materials are also reduced when food doesn’t have to travel so far. But perhaps best of all, locally produced food tastes better since it is picked at the peak of freshness, lessening the 1,500 miles the typical American meal travels before reaching the dinner table. Since local foods do not travel very far, farmers can choose varieties based on flavor rather than on their ability to withstand a long journey to market. Local farmers can offer more choices, such as heirloom vegetables, heritage breeds of livestock, and other specialty products that are unlikely to be mass marketed.   

By supporting small farms and local agriculture, money is kept within the community. Relationships develop between the farmers who grow the produce and the consumers who buy it, a win-win scenario for everyone involved.   Here in Scott County we have individuals joining together to support local food producers. Two of the primary local organizations supporting local food access are the Local Harvest Alliance and the Scott County Farm Advisory Board.

The Local Food Alliance is “a group of local food producers and consumers located in Scott County. Our goals are to promote the preservation of agricultural land and open spaces, support local food production, develop a vibrant local food economy, and to realize ultimate food security through local food production,” according to their website (www.localharvestalliance.org).

The Scott County Farm Advisory Board, originally established in 2009 as the Scott County Farm Advisory Task Force, consists of farmers, local officials, and interested residents who meet quarterly to discuss issues of concern to the agricultural community such as the long-term future of farming, land use, and natural resource plans as they relate to farming. Minutes from their meetings are available on the Scott County website. In this column/blog, we will focus our efforts on food (largely animal, fruit, and vegetable) produced and consumed in Scott County. Our goal is to inform readers of local resources and low-income access to healthy foods.

Tessa Lehto is a Shakopee resident and garden enthusiast. This article is funded in part by Scott County’s Statewide Health Initiative Plan to promote healthy eating in the county and Local Harvest Alliance to promote awareness of local foods. Comments or Ideas? Contact me at tessalynn.lehto@gmail.com.