Anyone who has rushed fresh cobs of sweet corn from the field to their grill, or inhaled the intoxicating aroma of a newly picked strawberry knows that seeking out locally grown foods can be extremely rewarding. But eating local has other positives as well: It supports the community’s economy, helps the environment and, as many experts would agree, is often the healthier choice.
Whether it is locally grown produce, humanely raised meat and poultry from nearby farms, or line-caught fish from Florida’s coastal waters, the farm-to-table (and sea-to-table) movement has gained momentum in recent years. “It seems to be a trend,” says Jason McCobb, a farmer in Lake Worth. “People are realizing that the quality isn’t the same when produce is picked for shipping instead of eating.”
“Eating local guarantees that the food is fresher,” says Gabriele Marewski of Paradise Farms in Homestead. “People today want to know where their food comes from, because they realize that the food they eat is directly related to their health.”
Jeremy Jones, a spokesperson for Whole Foods in Florida, says the grocery chain is on board with the movement. “Whenever we can, we bring in local suppliers,” he says. “Not only is the food fresh, we also like knowing the money is going back into the community.’
Health y Choices
It is commonly accepted that diets emphasizing fruits and vegetables promote good health. And while locally grown produce isn’t necessarily more nutritious than what travels longer distances to market, it usually tastes better, says Kristine Perez-Carrion, nutrition program manager for FLIPANY (Florida Introduces Physical Activity and Nutrition to Youth). “Studies are varied on the nutrient factors,” she says. “But locally produced foods usually have more intense flavors. And if fruits and vegetables have more flavor, you’re likely to enjoy them more, and you’ll probably eat more of them.”
So why do they taste better? “When produce needs to be shipped, it’s often picked before it’s ripe,” Perez-Carrion says. “Then they add chemicals like ethylene to make it ripen.”
“Things can stay on the vine a lot longer and ripen naturally,” says Patrick Broadhead, executive chef and owner of Max’s Grill in Boca Raton and Max’s Harvest in Delray Beach. “Food doesn’t have the same flavor when it’s picked green.”