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Six Reasons to Eat Local, Three Common Challenges, and Some Tough Love Solutions

What's Included

Six Reasons to Eat Local

1:7 Ratio of Local Spending

Local Food Has More Nutrients

Talking with Your Farmer Gets You What You Want

What's Really In Your Food?

You Use Less Fuel When Shopping Locally

Your Food Is What Your Food Eats

The Three Cs of Eating Local & Solutions




Let’s play a money game, okay?  You are an investor.  For every $1 you invest, it multiplies by 7. So $1 becomes $7 and $100 becomes $700. Just like that. (You’re welcome.)

Do you like this game? Good. I thought you would.

When you shop locally with a farmer, the money circulates 7 times within the local community

Now, tell me, where would you like to invest? Not in what, but where geographically? Overseas? No. How about on the opposite side of the country? No? Not that either, huh?

How about in your own community? Right down the road. In your local schools. Your local businesses. In your roads and telecom. How about that?

That is what happens every time you shop locally with a farmer. You pay $1 for a red pepper and that dollar goes into the farmer’s pocket. Then to the local mechanic. To the local hardware store. To the local grocer. And to local taxes. And each one of them goes out and spends that $1 locally at the shoe store, the gas station, and with that same farmer. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Shopping locally with a farmer has other benefits too. All of them impact YOU, and in some ways more directly than our little money game. Here’s how.

Local food has more nutrients than food that was transported a long distance, going in and out of refrigerators, freezers, trucks, trains and airplanes. The faster the food gets to your mouth from the farm, the more nutrients you get. Boom!

Since your farmer is local, you can get to know them. Why? When you’re at the farm stand or farmer’s market, you can talk to them about what you want and don’t want. They want to hear from their customers. What do you value? Organic berries? What about a special variety of tomato that your grandmother used in her famous marinara? Starting this conversation and continuing this dialog is how you get the results you want.

You have questions. You hear buzzwords. What do they really mean? Does organic mean no pesticides? Or just special ones? How do we know they are safe? What is all the hubbub with regenerative agriculture? You can ask these questions and KNOW more about what’s in the food you are putting in your own body and on your family’s table.

When you shop locally with a farmer you save on transportation fuel

Since your farmer is local, you are using less fuel to get your food. That translates into $$$. It also translates into less emissions going out into the atmosphere. Boy, the points in the good column are adding up. (Don’t worry, I will cover the bad column too.)

Time to talk dirty (now we’re getting somewhere). I am not sure how deeply you think about your food on a daily basis, but I do know it’s not the first time you’ve heard “You are what you eat.”

That goes for plants and animals too. Plants with a lack of nutrients (in the soil!), don’t thrive. Cows without enough nutrients -- from the grasses growing in the soil -- don’t produce good milk. Talk to your farmer about how they care for the land. That land is sequestering carbon and emitting precious oxygen for you to breathe. (Did you just take a deep breath? I did.)

Now, the bad news: The Three Cs. For all that – healthier food, richer soil, less fuel, sequestered carbon, and a 1:7 investment cycle – there’s a price. The price is three-fold: convenience, consistency, and cost. I call it the Three Cs.

  1. Shopping locally with a farmer is not as convenient as your grocery delivery (where you order online, and it shows up at your house with no muss and no fuss). It is not as convenient as a one-stop shop to your local grocery store that actually doesn’t carry anything local. You have to make a little effort to shop with a local farmer. (Yes, I will give you some handy tips at the end.)

  2. You might sacrifice consistency when you shop with a local farmer. Guess what? This week, no strawberries. Time to pivot your dessert plans. Stuffing peppers for dinner on Wednesday? They might be different sizes and maybe not as big as the Bell Peppers you find in the supermarket and secretly question if they are on steroids. Chickens – particularly heritage breeds – don’t grow as fast as conventionally bred chickens like a Cornish Cross. If they are free range, their slaughter weight might vary whereas your supermarket may only sell 4-pound birds.

  3. Ready for the big elephant in the room? Cost. I hear this a lot. Why does a locally raised chicken or pepper cost MORE than a supermarket variety? It goes back to what you want your food to have in it (It is what it eats, remember?) Now you know you’re getting some pretty important benefits. But I want to give you some input factors that maybe you haven’t considered:

  • Labor intensive – organic and regenerative practices require more weeding, moving livestock, fencing, and people/hours to do all that work.

  • Lack of subsidies – government subsidies and most agricultural grants are reserved for larger-scale operations and specific crops like corn, wheat, soybeans, and sugar beets.

  • Infrastructure costs – small farms have to invest in these just like big operations. With chickens, for example, an industrial facility has 40,000 birds in one building. A small-scale operation may have several dozen in a hand-operated cart to move to fresh pasture (more land needed too).

  • Inputs cost more per unit – Mass production is cheaper (i.e., buying in bulk) and small farmers tend to prioritize the health of their land and animals when deciding what kind of inputs they choose.

There’s always more to the story than we think when we are trying to get dinner on the table. See what I mean?

Eating locally supports farmers and your local community

Let’s talk about some solutions, okay? Here are some strategies to help you combat the three Cs – convenience, consistency, and cost:

1.     Convenience. Make a plan. Be a planner. Think it through. You can figure out anything if you put your mind to it. When you carpool, plan your route so you can make a quick stop at the local farm stand. Get a buddy who lives near you or who you see regularly to trade off weeks going to the farmer’s market. Have a list. Text each other if there’s something new or if something that you need is not available.

2.     Consistency. Don’t get offended when I say this, okay? Suck it up. Deal with it. If the tomatoes wouldn’t pass for supermodels (in the tomato world) who cares? (Neither would most of us… haha!) If there is no skirt steak this week, try a flat iron. A single cow only has so many cuts of your favorite steak to go around. Be a pivoter. This can serve you well – not only for dinner – but in the rest of your life. And you never know when a last-minute pivot twangs the chord of creativity leading you to your best meal ever! xo

3.     Cost. This one is tougher. Make a list of your priorities and values. What is more important to you? Taste, because you are having special guests this weekend? Health? Many who have had a health episode in their lives – their own or one of someone close to them – will not budge on this factor. It’s a list – the environment, carbon footprint, your local community, the future of food. My sister-in-law shared this mindset with me: she skimps on other things, but when it comes to food she shops like she’s a billionaire (and, for the record, she’s not).

A few small changes to your routine can help you work shopping locally with a farmer into your busy schedule.

Don’t forget that the For Farmers Movement has a Love For Farmers campaign that runs from mid-January to mid-March where you can share your appreciation for your local farmers AND a Grants for Farmers campaign that kicks off on National Farmer’s Day every year (October 12) where you can nominate your farmer for a grant. It’s so good to be For Farmers. Every small action adds up and has a BIG impact.

Subscribe here for more (a weekly letter, campaign announcements, your favorite farmer on the Talk Farm to Me podcast, small actions you can take to have a BIG impact on your community and its farmers, etc.)

Let me know where you net out on eating local and shopping with your local farmers. Is it easy for you? Have you made any adjustments to make it work better for you? Do you need a farmer's market buddy?

xo, Dana



Dana DiPrima is the founder of the For Farmers Movement. For Farmers supports American farmers by sharing their stories, replacing myths with facts, and providing them with mini-grants and other helpful resources. Dana is the host of the Talk Farm to Me podcast featuring farmers and farm issue experts from across the country. She authors a weekly letter in addition to this blog. You can subscribe here. And you can join the For Farmers Movement to support your farmers here. You can also follow her on Instagram and Threads.





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