By Denise LaBarre
You’ve probably seen bumper stickers urging you to Eat Local or Grow Your Own Food. But why bother to do this when shopping at Costco or Safeway is so convenient and seemingly cheaper? Here are some points to consider:
- Fresher is better for you – higher nutrition, tastes better
Humans and plants have evolved together. We are designed to eat what is grown near us, picked and eaten quickly to get the biggest nutritional benefit.
There’s a world of difference in taste and nutrient value when you compare fresh-picked, locally-grown fruits and vegetables with their picked-unripe, gassed-and-warehoused counterparts in big supermarkets.
Statistics on nutrient loss over storage time are hard to find. Small farmers, who would benefit from those statistics, aren’t in a position to fund large-scale research. While large, highly mechanized producers tend to squelch information that would steer people away from their energetically tired and chemically-augmented produce.
My friend, Harriet, has been growing the majority of her own food for many years. Her doctors marvel at how quickly she heals (several times faster than others her ate) and she attributes it to the clean, just-picked food she eats. There’s no chemical substitute for the taste, energy, and aliveness of fresh produce and it’s satisfying on so many levels.
When I get home from the farmer’s market, I cut the stems of my leafy greens and put them in water to give them a drink. They quickly revive dramatically. I have tried that with various leafy greens from grocery stores but the greens barely perked up, if at all. I take the difference to mean there is still plenty of life force to revive in my farmer’s market produce, whereas the store-bought produce, shipped great distances, has perhaps been treated with preservatives and already lost most of the life-force it once had.
- Supports community, connectedness, & the local economy
The opportunity to eat cleanly-grown, local produce is one of the great blessings in my life and living on Maui. Recently I visited eastern Washington, looking to eat a healthy dinner at a restaurant. I asked the server what was the healthiest, freshest thing on the menu and she replied, “The twice-baked mac and cheese is pretty popular.” The only vegetables on the menu were potatoes.
We are creatures of connection. I have frequented the Saturday Farmer’s Market in Kula since before it was in Kula and I have relationships with many of the vendors there. I can give thanks directly to the hands that cultivate and tend and harvest.
I trade jokes with the man who picks and sells the coffee I love. I’ve played games at the house of the beautiful Mexican farmer who grows the kale I eat. I like that there’s no middleman skimming off profit. I also like being connected to the reality of growing – like when there’s been a storm and the market is nearly empty because the farmers have been battling the elements or when the bugs have taken all the zucchini I planned to buy. I appreciate the produce all the more.
It’s only in the last 1-200 years that we have had the storage, transportation, and refrigeration capacity to deliver fresh food across the globe. We now eat summer fruits (from South America) in the winter, wine from everywhere, and global delicacies unheard of a few decades ago.
But this has come at a great price in loss of small farms; in the fossil fuel it takes to transport food across oceans or landmasses; and the care taken with each head of broccoli and basket of strawberries. When a small number of people produce a huge amount of food, quality suffers. It is impossible to care for livestock, even orchard trees, with appropriate love on the scale of today’s huge agribusiness farms.
Buying local keeps the money here to recirculate in the local economy. What you spend at big chain stores is siphoned off to megacorporations that contribute minimally to the local economy. On a remote-Pacific island, this is even more critical than elsewhere.
- Feeds your Soul
Most of all, growing your own food and eating local feeds your soul. It’s satisfying to reconnect with plant kingdom, natural cycles, and the child-like miracle of growth.
Feeling the love of the plants themselves and the people who nurture plants is delicious medicine that comes with.
We are so lucky to live where there is ample sunshine and water to grow food year-round. Amping up your appreciation and gratitude – which themselves are nourishing and healing – is so easy to do when the food tastes so food and is packed with mana.
There’s something deeply fulfilling about eating vegetables that you grew yourself or making a sauce with just-picked herbs. You don’t have to live on a farm or even shop at a farmer’s market to enjoy fresh-picked flavor and nutrition. You can grow all kinds of herbs and leafy vegetables in pots. In an apartment you can get lemons from a small potted tree on your lanai. Why not make a resolution to grow more of your own food this year? – even if it’s in a pot of basil and chives.
I planted some turmeric (olena) plants in my little front garden (even though it gets too much wind) but I enjoy checking whether they’ve had enough water. It’s easy to nurture them – they demand so little! – and I am emotionally invested in whether they thrive. That’s connection, that’s a richness I wouldn’t get shopping at MegaGrocery. When I finally harvest the roots, you can believe I will appreciate the time and energy involved – because I was there watching it grow. For more about the healing benefits of turmeric, and how to prepare it, see my blog post: www.HealingCatalyst.com/turmeric/
In the next decade, I suspect we will see research showing how important are clean growing practices, smaller-scale production and storage, and connection with producers and the food itself. But you and already know how to taste the freshness and buy local whenever we can. It’s better for our bodies, the community, and our collective soul.
*This article originally appeared in the March/April 2016 issue of Living Aloha Magazine