The National Farmer’s Union estimates that around 45% of vegetables are imported from overseas into Britain. It’s also estimated that around 84% of our fruit is imported from oversees. Those statistics are huge and have a significant impact on our carbon footprint so to reduce our carbon footprint we should all be trying to eat more locally and in season.
But reducing our carbon footprint isn’t the only reason why we should be sourcing our food locally and in season; below I’ve listed some more reasons that I think are important:
Why Should we eat locally and in Season.
Support local Farmers and Businesses
Buying your food locally helps to support local farmers and businesses and helps support the local economy.
Sourcing local produce will take more time than a trip to the supermarket as you will probably have to buy your produce from local Farm Shops or farmers markets. However, slowing down and taking time to shop can all add to the enjoyment. If you don’t have the time, look for deliveries of local fruit and veg boxes; our local farm shop offers this service which is really useful.
Local food is fresher
Because local in season food doesn’t have to be transported thousands of miles it doesn’t have to be stored for long periods of time so is generally fresher. It may also be higher in some nutrients which may be lost in food that is stored and shipped long distances.
Once you’ve bought your food make sure you store it correctly to keep it fresher for longer.
Less plastic packaging
Usually fruit and vegetables sold locally at farmers markets and local greengrocers have less plastic packaging and is therefore more environmentally friendly.
The prevalence of single use plastic for packaging has become such a huge issue. It’s estimated by the environmental charity Greenpeace that UK supermarkets put more than 900,000 tonnes of plastic packaging on their shelves a year. Plastic packaging and bags can take up to 400 years to break down and every year lots of it ends up in oceans; being blown into rivers, streams and sewers from overflowing rubbish bins and landfill sites.
Protecting our Countryside and wildlife
Farmers manage the countryside so by supporting them and ensuring they can continue farming you are also supporting your local countryside and wildlife
British farmers work hard to enhance the British countryside, maintain habitats for native plants and animals, maintain footpaths, protect watercourses and support wildlife species.
Just as we depend on the UK’s farmland for the food we eat every day, so does the country’s wildlife. And with 71% of land in the UK managed by farmers, it’s easy to see what an important role they play in helping to protect and encourage wildlife and habitats. – Countryside
If you eat locally and in season you may find Food tastes better
Fruit and vegetables that are produced and sold in season usually taste better as they’ve had time to ripen naturally which will give them more flavour, just think about vine ripened tomatoes as an example.
Food provenance is all about understanding and knowing where your food has come from and how it’s been produced. Things you might want to know are, where was it grown? Is it organic? Is it free range? Was it caught sustainably? How far has it travelled to reach me?
If you buy your food locally you are more likely to fully aware of it’s provenance and this is becoming more important to all of us. One of my favourite local restaurants Five Little Pigs has a great ethos towards sustainability and using local produce.
Here in Wallingford, we count ourselves incredibly lucky to be surrounded by so many passionate and skilled producers of food and drink. From the rolling Chiltern Hills to the floodplains of the River Thames, our local landscapes provide the perfect environments to grow, rear or produce ingredients as impressive as you will find anywhere in the UK, and we’re intent on not just using these gems, but showcasing them, across all our menus. We’ve set ourselves an ambitious goal of sourcing 70% of our menu from within 15 miles of the restaurant’s front door. Working with these local suppliers not only supports our local economy and the small, much-loved businesses that define it, but it also naturally reduces food miles, and the carbon cost of what you are eating. It also goes without saying that in sourcing from people we know and trust, we benefit from far greater transparency in the food chain- something that’s incredibly important when it comes to ensuring high welfare standards in all of our meat. – Five Little Pigs
How to eat locally and in season
Now that you know why it’s good to eat locally and in season here’s a list of what’s in season each month in the UK?
This is a fairly short list but for a fuller list check out Seasonal calendar – BBC Good Food
Now that you know what’s in season each month it’s a case of finding where you can buy it. As I mentioned previously local Farm Shops and Farmers Markets are a great place to start looking for locally grown produce. Also check out local Pick Your Own farms. We have some great ones in our local area and the kids always enjoy strawberry picking as I’m sure they eat as many while their picking as they put in the basket.
Another great resource is the Big Barn website which helps you find local food producers and farmers markets by area or type of food. With nearly 9,000 lisitings on the Local Food Map you should be able to find what you’re looking for.
And obviously if you really want to eat local in season food why not start by growing some of your own fruit and vegetables. If you’re a total beginner when it comes to growing fruit or vegetables why not try one of the grow your own kits. Pot Gang has a good selection and the kits include everything you need to get started.
If you grow your own, or buy lots when it’s in season then preserving the surplus for use later in the year is a great way to ensure you can still enjoy things like strawberries and tomatoes when they’re out of season. I don’t think anything tastes better than homegrown and I love making my own chutneys and preserves. If you’ve never tried preserving before take a look at Well-preserved: a beginner’s guide to making delicious jam – in 10 easy steps
I realise it’s unrealistic to think that we’re all suddenly going to start eating only in season local fruit and vegetables. But, if we make a conscious effort to shop locally and in season for just part of our food shop that will have a big impact.
I hope you have found this useful and given you some food for thought, pun intended.