Local agriculture is the most sustainable way to grow food. For detailed information on local vs. industrial food systems, please visit the Sustainable Table pages. A brief summary of advantages for local farms:
- reduced use of fossil fuels
- less erosion and loss of soil quality
- less pollution from runoff and chemical leaching
- less loss of biodiversity
- lower water use
- better protection for farm workers
- fewer transportation costs
- minimized pesticide use
- minimized packaging
- greater range of products
Local farms typically sell direct to consumer by Farmers Markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), and Farm Stands or Pick-Your-Own. The main disadvantage for local agriculture is that products are less easy to find than their industrial counterparts. Here's where to find that good local food!
Farmers Markets are also conducted in surrounding towns, and search tools showing the locations are at Farmfresh and Local Harvest. These websites provide a wealth of related information including harvest dates, forums, blogs, newsletters, recipes, and restaurants that support local farms. Farm Stands and Pick-Your-Own farms are also listed.
Some further thoughts on local markets are on the Blog.
CSAs allow consumers to buy a “share” of a local farm’s projected harvest. Consumers are often required to pay for their share of the harvest up front; this arrangement distributes the risks and rewards of farming amongst both consumers and the farmer. CSA participants often pick up their CSA shares in a communal location. CSA locations are included at Farmfresh and Local Harvest, as well as Gardens.com.
Of course, you can't get any more local than what you can grow in your own back yard. Unless you have a green thumb, raising your own food is not for the faint of heart or wallet, but it might give you a greater appreciation for local farmers! Consider joining a Garden Club if you're new to this, or sign up for a Community Garden plot if you need more space or some company in the garden.