Articles

Why Support Local Agriculture

The mission statement of the Coppell Farmers Market states: To form a relationship with local growers/producers in order to provide fresh, seasonal produce and agricultural products for our community while fostering a sense of place in Old Town Coppell.

To this end, the members of the Farmers Market Committee, in soliciting vendors for the market, strive to bring the community a variety of locally grown produce and other locally produced items. In past committee meetings, this preference for local agriculture and production was discussed. This deserves some explanation for those who may not understand our rationalizations for this preference. There are several reasons why this is a “good thing” and also why it is not always possible to have absolutely “local” products.

First of all, our definition of local is fairly broad and practical. For produce, we have a general goal of vendors within a 150 mile radius of Coppell. This make sense from an economic standpoint since traveling much further than this would probably not be worthwhile for the farmer and might impair the freshness of his/her produce.   There are exceptions, of course, such as seafood from the Gulf, which for obvious reasons, has to travel more than 150 miles. Other items, such as olives for olive oil, are grown much farther South and just don’t do well in North Central Texas. Of course, the ultimate “local” food is food that is grown in your garden at home, but most of us don’t have the time or desire to do this to any great extent.

To me, the most important part of buying local is to get to know the farmers and producers and develop a relationship with them and to become educated about what goes into food production. In most cases, committee members have visited our farmers and producers and know where, how and under what conditions produce is grown and processed items are made.

Another reason that is not normally discussed is that in the global food production system, fewer and fewer varieties of produce are grown. We see just a few varieties of tomatoes, squash or lettuce at the supermarket, but at the Farmers Market you may see heirloom varieties that just aren’t available anywhere else. Along with the availability of more variety in vegetables, if you buy locally grown items, you are also eating in season, which is much more sustainable.

By now we’ve all heard the old adage about produce on supermarket shelves being shipped an average of 1500 miles before being sold. This is still a very good reason for buying local but there are some more subtle issues that come into play. It is also important to consider how food is grown and how its production impacts our health and the health of the planet. It may be difficult to determine, at times, how locally grown food impacts our environment but, by all means, discuss these issues with the vendors.

Now if we want to take a trip to the future of local food production there are some really novel ideas about how it will be done. Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing, and distributing food in or around a village, town, or city. Urban farms already exist (Coppell has two) and the challenge would just be to expand upon this idea and perhaps move them indoors in a suitable structure. These farms would not only produce food, but would absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.

There is another concept that I must mention – and that is “Localwashing.” Although large corporations are to be applauded for getting on the local food bandwagon, in some cases they are not being totally sincere. For instance, some companies are portraying their food items as local simply because all ingredients come from North America. Cities are also getting into the act by promoting local businesses. Unfortunately they are not all locally owned but are part of large chain stores. There are grass roots organizations that have formed to promote real locally owned and independent businesses which include local farmers.

In conclusion, it seems that buying local is the wave of the future and will have long-term benefits for the environment and our local economy.

By Pat Lambert, Farmers Market Committee Member

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