by Falon French

Recently, I went to a major superstore to buy more coffee. What a revelation. Aside from the tiny produce section (that did not tell consumers where produce was produced or what chemicals were used on the food), every aisle was identical. The names on the boxes and cans changed, but the white linoleum, fluorescent lighting, and neat rows of boxes and cans of, theoretically, food was staggeringly uniform through the entire store. Looking around at the sterile, uniform aisles, it was hard to imagine anything in that superstore actually growing in the earth.

We have lost the “organic” in our agriculture. I don’t mean the new definition – I mean the very simple fact that our food was once alive. In places like this, you can imagine food on a vast assembly line; as it moves inexorably to the end of the line it is slowly twisted and reformed into a food-like substance that is mostly synthetic. Actual nutrients are wrung from the crops and the resulting product is “enriched” with extra vitamins and minerals.

Contrast this to a vibrant farmers market, where you can ask the actual person who grew crops what he/she used to fertilize the soil. In farmers markets and local grocers, you can trace your food from seed to sprout, know exactly what chemicals were used to produce it, and meet the people that sustain us. Local food is fresher, tastes better, and is more nutritious that food that has been frozen, shipped, or over-processed. Local farmers are also more likely to actively work to protect and improve environmental quality, since they live in the local community and often cater to more educated consumers who want sustainably grown food.

Purchasing local foods does not just encourage better environmental stewardship. It also promotes a stronger and more diverse local economy. Every dollar that is spent at the local level, at a farmers market or local food grocery, will be circulated within that community rather than exported elsewhere. And it is the economic power of that “turning” of the dollar that makes a tremendous impact on the local community – if Hoosiers spent just 10% of this food budget on locally grown products, it would add more than $1.4 billion dollars to Indiana’s economy.

Finding local food has never been easier. Directories detail the locations of most – if not all – farmers markets and local grocers. There are also databases of sustainable and organic farmers, so concerned consumers can call farmers to ask about their practices and where to find their food BEFORE making a trip to the markets.

For more information, visit www.indianafarmdirect.com.

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