Keeping It In the CountyJamie Huynh
Member Services CoordinatorQuincy Natural Foods 6/2/2010
Local. How complex can it be? As with many things, it’s what you make of it.
For many, supporting local food is the first step in joining the local movement, which seeks to create more sustainable, self-reliant systems. So, what exactly is “local” you ask?
Well, Quincy Natural Foods Cooperative defines it as products grown or produced within 100 miles of wherever you live. For residents of Quincy and nearby areas, that would include all of Plumas County and everywhere from (approximately) Chico to Reno.
On to the next logical question: “Why bother with local?” Well, there are four main reasons. To begin with, supporting local food minimizes the number of food miles we use.
Petroleum products tend to have a negative impact on the health of our environment, as well as our bodies. The less petroleum we use, the healthier our bodies and communities become. Most of our food, as American consumers, travels more than 1,300 miles to reach our plates. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a lot of fuel consumed (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, 2008).
Actually, more than 10 percent of all fossil fuel energy consumption in the United States is due to food processing, transportation, storage and preparation (Horrigan, Leo, et al. 2002).
“More than 10 percent” may not sound like much, but let me rephrase it for you. That’s the equivalent to 62.16 billion U.S. gallons, which is the equivalent of about 5.1 million swimming pools of fossil fuel.
We can reduce this amount simply by buying the foods and products that support our local economy.
That’s right — a dollar spent at a locally owned business has roughly three times as much local economic impact as a dollar spent at a non-locally owned business. That is because locally owned businesses often purchase supplies and services from other locally owned businesses.
How lucky we are to have a wide variety to patronize here in Plumas County. We can eat, drink, play, bank, read, heal, gift and be merry all while supporting our local economy.
When we eat locally, we’re definitely getting more out of our food than otherwise. Many fresh foods lose nutrients, vitamins and minerals after they’re harvested. Given the seven to 14 days it takes for most foods to reach our plates after harvesting, we’re missing out on quite a lot (Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, 2007).
Spinach, for example, known for its health benefits, loses 80 percent of its vitamins during the first two days after harvesting, even if it is stored in a cool and dark place.
A recent study showed that 77 percent of vitamin C in fresh green peas was lost after seven days of storage. The sooner you get fresh foods from the farm to the fork, the more health value you receive.
Something else you might not know: Many of our local farms use sustainable growing practices; by supporting local food, we’re also supporting a safer food supply.
Some of the sustainable methods utilized by local farms include crop rotation, low- or no-till, and recycling plant material back into the soil either directly or through compost.
Crop rotation simply means you don’t plant the same crop in the same place to avoid the build-up of pathogens and pests as well as to reduce soil nutrient depletion.
Low-till and no-till refers to the practice of not mechanically tilling up the soil each year. Some farmers use a broadfork to turn the soil to loosen it for planting. Others layer their beds with newspaper and nitrogen-rich materials (such as grass) to encourage earthworms to “till” for them during the winter. That allows the soil to retain its structure, which creates air and water space, and reduces erosion.
Given these reasons for supporting local foods and businesses, some of you may be asking the next logical question, “How?”
Well, there are many answers to that question, a few of which I’ll lay out for you.
Check out the Quincy Certified Farmers’ Market, which takes place each Thursday evening, from June 24 through Sept. 9, and enjoy live music, local foods (including fruits, vegetables, meats and prepared foods), and a variety of local crafts from 5 p.m. until dusk.
Don’t forget: they accept food stamps!
Patronize your local co-op, Quincy Natural Foods, where you’ll find fresh, local vegetables, meats and other products.
Grow your own. Despite our short growing season in Plumas County, we can still grow quite a variety of foods, especially with organic seedlings available at Quincy Natural Foods. You can also extend your enjoyment of local produce by canning, drying or freezing your homegrown or locally bought goods.
Last, you can join our local High Altitude Harvest Community Supported Agriculture, which has been expanded this year to include the American Valley and Indian Valley areas.
Simply pay the share of $30 per week and you’ll receive fresh fruits and veggies from June to October. Contact Elizabeth Powell, CSA coordinator, at 283-3611, ext.*839.
For more information, visit fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R40872.pdf,staylocal.org/pdf/info/ThinkingOutsidetheBox_1.pdf; and vitamin-deficiency-today.com/food-storage.html.