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Eat Local Month (Missouri, USA)

The month of June was designated as ‘Eat Local Month’ in Columbia, Missouri. The Sustainable Farms and Communities and the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services, in conjunction with many other local organisations made this declaration in order to recognize and support the large amount of food production from local farmers and to encourage good health through food choices. The Columbia Mayor, Bob McDavid, and the Boone County Commission, considering it as an initiative that enriches life and promises improved health, gave their full support.

The Urban Farm

CCUA’s Garden Greenhorns

CCUA Harvesting Lettuce

CCUA’s Freshly Harvested Radishes

Boone County is home to many food producers. The area has seen a growth in urban agriculture as more city residents plant gardens, local restaurants increase the demand for local produce, and residents raise chickens in city limits as per recently approved Columbia City Council ordinance. The purpose of “Eat Local Month” was to celebrate and recognize these producers and how they contribute to communities health and enjoyment of the food they consume.

Preparing for Market

Setting up at Columbia Farmers’ Market

Columbia Farmers’ Market

‘Locavore’ challenge

The organisers of this month-long series of events called on residents to participate in a ‘locavore’ challenge. A ‘locavore’ is a person who makes a concerted effort to consume food products produced within a fifty mile radius of their home. The challenge encouraged participants to make their own food, like home-made bread, yogurt, ice-cream, or cheese. They encouraged visits to local farms and markets. Participants were urged to attend locally held workshops, short courses, farm tours, or other educational events that featured some aspect of growing, using, or preserving local foods. They were asked to share locavore knowledge with others by writing about it or posting photos on social media sites or making short videos. The participants were requested to eat nothing but locally grown foods for one of the following periods: 1 day; 1 week; 4 weeks. First prize was a $100 gift card for the winner to spend at the market.

Columbia Farmers’ Market

Share-Life Farms at the Columbia Farmers’ Market

The intention of “Eat Local Month” was to encourage more thoughtful consumption. Not only are local foods fresher, better tasting, and healthier, but choosing to eat local adds more to the Columbia/Boone County economy. The vendors of the Columbia Farmers’ Market have estimated their sales last year contributed over $1 million into the regional economy.

The Eat Local Challenge aimed to promote a healthy connection between food and health, by recognizing the health benefits of fresh foods. The event created an opportunity to meet the farmers, see the food that is grown, sit out on the farm and enjoy a meal. One also got to learn different cooking tips and recipes since many of the farmers are passionate cooks of the food they produce.

Why Eat Local ?

1. Support family farms and the local economy: Large corporations control the food production in the developed world. As a result small farmers have a tough time making a living in the food business. Buying directly from farmers helps them earn a decent income and helps the local economy to grow. Food travels through fewer hands so most of the money goes to the people growing it.

The salad garden at the Columbia Farmers’ Market

2. Know how your food is produced: One gets a rare opportunity to meet and talk to food artisans and farmers and learn more about how and where food is produced. It gives a chance to meet farmers who raise animals for beef, pork and chickens. Unlike large scale factory farms, animals on small family farms are raised without hormones or antibiotics, they graze on green pastures and enjoy natural lives. In a way, by consuming local food, the people of the community are promoting the humane treatment of animals.

Atai Meadows at the Columbia Farmers’ Market

3. Seasonal fresh and tasty food: The variety of food produced changes with the seasons and as a result they are always fresh and delicious. By eating with the season one gets a chance to reconnect with the cycles of nature in the region an individual is living. In a way it also bring back our awareness of the earth, the weather and the turning of the seasons as we slowly start anticipating different vegetables in different seasons. Since they are grown locally, they are not shipped from far off places, nor are they sprayed with preservatives or chemicals to simulate the ripening process. They are fresh and most often are picked up as early as that same morning. The variety of produce available is amazing and cannot be found on a normal supermarket shelf. Local farms create the opportunity to enjoy the biodiversity of the local region.

Deep Mud at the Columbia Farmers’ Market

4. Minimal environmental impact: Food travels thousands of miles in developed countries before it reaches the table. As a result large amounts of natural resources are consumed, air and water bodies are polluted and trash is generated with excessive packaging. Local farmers on the other hand transport their food shorter distances, with minimal impact on the environment.

The Harvestor at the Columbia Farmers’ Market

5. Good for health: Foods available in supermarkets are highly processed and are mostly grown by conventional farming techniques with excessive usage of pesticides, hormones, antibiotics and genetic modification. These practices are detrimental to human health. On the other hand, most local food comes from organic farms who make use of sustainable techniques and grow heirloom varieties with minimal processing.
Eat Local Month

Concluding remarks

Such events help people to realize how bountiful the local production system is. There are often a lot of local foodstuffs sold at the regular retail outlets, but unfortunately people don’t read labels and don’t realize that it comes from local producers. Events like these are very educative — they become the springboard for new gardeners and farmers who realize that they too can grow food in their patch of land or on their balconies, or join community gardens in their neighbourhood. This is what is needed for mankind, for the planet earth and for a sustainable future.

Ravindra Krishnamurthy

Ravindra Krishnamurthy is a freelance science writer covering science, tech, the environment, health, food, and culture.

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