locavore

Where Do Your Garden Plants Come From?

Greetings from New England!Each Monday we write about the New England environment and way of life seen through our local perspective. Previous posts

By Amy Miller

Did you know that our plants are grown right near here, my local greenhouse guy asks me. No I did not, I say. And?

And, apparently it’s time to get on board with locally grown plants.

I already know it’s good to buy from independent, local shopkeepers. I am well versed in how I should shop with the local grocer who keeps his money in the community bank and buys my son’s blackberries.

I even know it is a high cause to be a locavore, eating strawberries in June from the farm down the street and apples in autumn from trees in a nearby orchard. This saves on gas to transport the food, helps local farmers, protects the environment and nourishes your family with food that has a known provenance.

But I never really considered the origin of my basil, bulbs or bee balm.

This must be a hot new trend, though, because locally evolved, locally grown, and locally distributed plants already have an acronym of their own – LEG’D.  (Anyone know how you pronounce this?) And the benefits are many.

Flowers grown far away, in South America for instance, might be sprayed with chemical preservatives and refrigerated so they can be shipped thousands of miles. But the shipping and the refrigeration use significant energy. And the chemicals to make sure the flowers last also must be manufactured and shipped. Local flowers aren’t likely to need refrigeration or chemicals to get to us fresh.

The flowers from my local greenhouse also fuel the economy of my community. These purchases create jobs and since they involve fewer middlemen, they are either less expensive or at least the profits are staying nearby.

Some people say that LEG’D flowers and plants are naturally fresher. Some groups advocate having all decorative plants be locally evolved, grown and distributed.

Indigenous plants are more likely to tolerate the soil and weather in New England, where lows can range from 0 in Connecticut to -50 in parts of Maine, putting New England in Planting Zones 3 to 6. Native species have also evolved for other location conditions and are less likely to attract new exotic insects or diseases. Finally, native species often need less water or fertilizer.

The down side may be that deer or other animals eat local plants. A farm store can tell you what to do about that. I just had my dog mark the territory around the plants. But just in case, we built a double fence around the vegetables.

About the author: Amy Miller is a writer who works in the public affairs office of EPA New England in Boston. She lives in Maine with her husband, two children, eight chickens, dusky conure, chicken-eating dog and a great community.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Eating Local

By Kasia Broussalian

In this photo, a woman picks through a pile of ramps at the Union Square Greenmarket in New York City. The term, “locavore“, or a person who eats primarily locally grown foods, has entered many people’s lexicon, and represents a realistic way that individuals can minimize their carbon footprint and become environmentalists in their own right.  The Union Square market has become one of the most popular in Manhattan, if not the country (followed closely by the one in Des Moines), and supports many local growers. This particular farm, Berried Treasures, trucks its produce to Union Square every Wednesday and Friday from Cooks Falls, New York for the past 25 years.

The Union Square Greenmarket, which opened with only a few farmers in 1976, has now grown to over 140 farmers, fishermen, and bakers who sell their goods every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Many, if not most, commute from areas surrounding the city, making the Greenmarket hyper-local. Living nearby in the East Village, I usually wander through the Greenmarket a few times a week, and, depending on the season, get most of my fruits and vegetables there. Though some critics are lately questioning the true benefits (as far as carbon emissions are concerned) of eating local foods, I still believe that choosing to buy an apple grown upstate over a piece of exotic fruit from Chile makes some environmental difference. Tell us your about local farmers’ market and what you buy there.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Food Consumption as a Means of Environmental Stewardship

Have you had a friend or colleague describe himself as a “locavore” and not grasped what was meant? According to Merriam-Webster’s On-line Dictionary, a locavore is someone “who eats locally grown food whenever possible.”

Recently, I visited the Red Stick Farmers Market, one of the weekly agricultural sales in Baton Rouge organized by Big River Economic & Agricultural Development Alliance (www.breada.org). Local growers and food preparers bring vegetables, meats, grains, pastries, honeys, jams, jellies, eggs & cheeses as well as herbs and flowering plants to the open air market near the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality’s office in downtown Baton Rouge. The market is held every Saturday morning at this location and at other designated spots on other days of the week.

There are a number of reasons for consumers to support and frequent these local markets. You are obtaining fresh foods for your family that in most cases were harvested and prepared within days of your purchases. By operating on a smaller scale than corporate operations, a number of the farms are “organic” or use less chemicals since the crops do not need to be shipped great distances and be subjected to multiple handlings and pests. Many of the farmers are small business operations in the community so your food dollars stay in the local area.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the organization created by the United Nations Environmental Programme and the World Meteorological Organization to assess climate change, 13.5 of greenhouse gas emissions are attributed to agricultural practices, not including transportation and shipping. By taking part in the locally grown food market that does not need extended transportation from across the country or from around the world, you are reducing your family’s carbon footprint.

image of farmers market stand displaying potatoes and greens with people shoppingAnd as I overheard two shoppers say, “The fruits and vegetables just test better than what comes from large scale farms.”

So next week, line up with your neighbors and support the environment by buying locally grown farm products.

About the author: Rob Lawrence joined EPA in 1990 and is Senior Policy Advisor on Energy Issues in the Dallas, TX regional office. As an economist, he works to insure that both supply and demand components are addressed as the Region develops its Clean Energy and Climate Change Strategy.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Question of the Week: Do you pay attention to where your food comes from?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Much of the food we buy is grown in other places and transported to markets or restaurants where we live. Some people have tried to be “locavores,” consuming only locally-grown food or products, in an effort to reduce the environmental impacts from transportation, cold storage, or others.

Do you pay attention to where your food comes from?

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Gran parte de los alimentos que compramos son cultivados en otros lugares y transportados a mercados o restaurantes cerca de donde vivimos. Algunas personas han tratado de ser “locávoros” o “locávores” al tratar de consumir sólo aquellos alimentos o productos que han sido cultivados localmente en un esfuerzo por reducir los impactos medioambientales de la transportación, el almacenaje frigorífico, u otros.

¿Usted presta atención al lugar de donde provienen sus alimentos?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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