Why Does Local Food Matter?

In preparation for NPR Science Friday coming to Wichita on September 9, FarmShop was invited to contribute to the KMUW SciFiles in the field of Food and Garden. Here is the unabridged version of Catherine’s local food commentary. Click here to listen.


The local food system in Wichita is becoming more vibrant and is a community treasure. But why does local food matter? How better to answer this question than with a quote from Wendell Berry:

Eaters must understand that eating takes place inescapably in the world, that it is inescapably an agricultural act, and that how we eat determines, to a considerable extent, how the world is used.”

Eating locally grown, raised, or produced food is one significant way to impact how the world is used. When we support the local food system by eating local, there are many benefits.

First, locally-grown produce tastes better and is better for you. A vegetable that was harvested within the previous 1 or 2 days, retains its flavor and nutrients much more than something that had to be picked before it was even ripe, then shipped over a thousand miles and stored in a warehouse before being delivered to a grocery store.

Fewer food miles not only means better flavor and nutrient-content, but also better for the environment. When food travels long distances by trains, planes, and automobiles, there is a significant carbon footprint attached because of the use of fossil fuels. Processing and packaging also contribute to that carbon footprint.

A vibrant local food system promotes genetic diversity of both plants and livestock. While industrial agriculture utilizes monocrops - large areas of one particular crop, small local farms often grow several different types of tomatoes or kale or even okra! Local farmers take pride in offering a variety of flavors and colors. Walk around Old Town Farmers’ Market on a Saturday and you will find this to be true.

Finally, by eating local we spend our food dollars in our own community. This is an investment in the Wichita economy and in food security for the future.

In the words of Tom Chapin:

“Locally grown is globally good, good, good for us all.”