Is Eating Local Food Better?
We were curious about the phrase you hear thrown about often: “eating local is better.” Our peanut butter is ground, packaged and managed locally, but our nuts are grown outside of Canada. Some might wonder why this is, and we wanted to find out… is this the most sustainable option or is locally grown food really better? We were lucky enough to chat with Kye Kocher, a former manager of YYC growers and now distributor through his own delivery service, Chef’s Farmer. His farm, Grand Trunk Veggies, dwells in a few backyards and supplies Calgary with high quality greens.
“I’ve always been interested in work that positively impacts the environment and the more I learn, the more it seems like one of the best ways to do that is to work to rebuild the food system,” Kye shared with us, explaining how sustainable farming went from a passion to a job to a purpose. “I had a strong desire for change in the food system because of how it impacted me both directly and indirectly.”
So, what are the benefits of a farm in an urban environment? Shouldn’t we leave growing crops to the more humid and weather-consistent climates outside of YYC?
Although an advocate for local farming, Kye made it apparent that what gives local food it’s sustainable edge depends on a lot of factors. There is no doubt that local foods have their benefits, but we must consider the other efforts in production that may impact sustainability.
Kye made the comparison of buying produce from a local greenhouse and a farm in a warmer country. The greenhouse is local, this means it has all the benefits of locally grown food, including:
Increased nutrient density
Decreased amount of energy and emissions needed for travel
Improved soil health (plants replenish soil, replacing the need for synthetic supplements)
Boosted carbon sequestration (plants process of storing harmful carbon dioxide)
Possible restoration of local species
That is only the short list of the great benefits of local food - but we still have some questions to ask: Is the energy it takes to heat this local greenhouse (which produces significantly less crops that in another country) more than the energy it takes to ship crops from an international grower? Do we support the other farming practices of this greenhouse?
Well, these questions may make us hesitate jumping onto the “support all-local everything” bandwagon. But, instead of being discouraging, they are empowering us to be the experts and own decision makers when it comes to what we eat. Except, we aren’t really experts quite yet, so we are going to keep Kye’s tips in our back pocket next time we shop for fresh food.
Our biggest takeaways that he shared with us:
During summer, don’t buy produce abroad if you can get it locally! Even our B.C. neighbours have some great produce to share that we can still consider local. In Calgary, you can get great fresh food from Grand Trunk Veggies and YYC Growers.
Every so often, purchase foods from innovative farming practices like aquaponic and hydroponic systems. With enough support, these systems can become sustainable enough for us to get locally grown produce in the winter.
Look into your food producers and learn about their growing practices to make an educated decision on who you are supporting. Think of who you shop with as voting for your ideal food system.
The most cost-effective way of eating local foods is starting a garden of your own! Start small with your herbs in a window sill, or jump right in with a backyard garden.
We can see that there are definitely more things to consider when supporting a food producer, like how they act on their values, engage in the community, and how they treat their employees. Although our nudefood nuts aren’t grown locally, they are grown sustainably elsewhere using the natural energy of the sun. They are ground and packaged in Calgary, which keeps our dollars close to home and contributes to a movement of healthier, waste free food!
We are hoping Kye’s knowledge helps inspire you to think twice when purchasing food from your favourite grocer, or even looking for alternative ways to shop too.
A big thanks to Kye for sharing his knowledge on local farming. Follow his harvesting adventures @grandtrunkveggies.