We gratefully have so many options in this country. We’re confronted daily with what to buy, where to buy and how to buy everything from electronics to vegetables. And we vote with our dollars with every purchase. With so much to choose from, it can be challenging to make conscientious, healthful, environmentally-friendly decisions with every purchase. Yet it’s an easy, impactful way to make our dollars count towards a healthier environment, a healthier local economy and a healthier YOU! It all starts with buying local produce, eggs, meat and dairy products. Here’s why.

1) It is the freshest product you can buy. From a CSA, owner-operated farm stand or Farmer’s Market, it is often less than 24 hours old.

2) It is more nutritious. Most local farmers are small farmers. Most small farmers are family farmers. Farmers who are true stewards of the land. Many are Certified Organic or use organic and sustainable practices. This means the land is nurtured; the soil is fed, not just the plants. Cover crops, natural fertilizers in the form of compost, animal manures (often from the home farm), and discretion is used to build and care for the soil for long term health. Family farmers care for the modest amounts of land they have; they understand the value of this land whether its knowledge passed on from previous generations or knowledge they have gained from having a passion and a background in land stewardship.

3) It reduces the carbon footprint of our food, therefore, of your family. Buying local helps keep the air clean. Buying local helps keep the water clean. Keeping the 18 wheelers off the road keeps pollution down; less petroleum used for transportation of food items means less oil pumped from the ground, less petroleum burned in CO2, less traffic on the interstates, less accidents, lower gasoline prices.

4) It supports the local economy. Those dollars are reinvested in other local businesses’ products and services, pay wages, create more jobs, encourages a broader range of products and services that meet local needs, supports local environment sustainability, and builds even stronger communities linking neighbors in a web of economic and social relationships.

5) It keeps farmland out of development. This alone is a huge reason to buy local. Keeping farmland undeveloped and in the hands of farmers driven to sell locally means less run-off (into your wells and the Chesapeake Bay), better air quality and the potential to keep America producing our own food. If we continue to increase our population and decrease our available farmland we will need to bring in more food from other countries. Countries like Mexico, China, Thailand, where worker abuse is persistent and regulations are low.

6) It encourages and increases the humane treatment of animals. Small farmers are more involved with their land, their animals, their product. Farmers closest to their product know the importance of humane treatment, sunshine and ‘real’ food for that animal (cows should not eat grain or parts of other animals) for healthy growth and the healthiest product for the consumer.

7) It teaches children well. Bring your kids to a local farm. Pick strawberries and apples, buy local honey, go the farmer’s market, a pumpkin patch, or a local dairy where employees and animals are treated humanely.