Based on the four years I have been in Austin, here’s what I can tell are the steps to full-mode Austinite: Get a bike, become a liberal, wear a hipster hat, learn to play an instrument, get a tattoo, get another tattoo, find your coffee shop, eat a lot of tacos, and become locally minded. Ok maybe that’s an exaggerated stereotype and maybe not all of those things are necessary to be an Austinite, but let’s talk about the one that can have the biggest impact- buying local.
Going local isn’t just another trendy thing to do like juicing. It has so many far-reaching benefits, I can’t help but think why didn’t I start doing this sooner. For one, it reduces the environmental impact of food production by supporting farming with integrity. Large subsidized farms aim for quantity at the expense of produce quality, as well as clean soil and water. There are also less fossil fuels used in transporting produce grown near home. Less travel time from farm to market also means that produce was harvested more recently, and that means the produce is tastier. Local produce is also tastier because it is what is in season. No genetic modifications, additives, preservatives, or words you can’t even pronounce necessary. These all lead to more delicious fruits and vegetables.
Lesser known are the beneficial impacts buying local can have on your local economy and community. When you go to the farm stand or a local business, twice the amount of money stays in the local economy. David Boyle, a researcher at the New Economics Foundation in the UK, paints a clear picture of what the economy is like and why this is. He says, “Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going,” and when that money is spent at supermarkets and the like, “it flows out like a wound.” You can think of local shopping as keeping your city’s economy healthy.
You can also strengthen your community’s health. Shopping at the farmer’s market is more personal than at a large grocery store. You can establish a relationship with the farmer who grows your carrots and they get to meet every single customer. What is more beautiful than having an instant connection over a carrot? With the rise of urban farms and gardens, community is built too. These provide great opportunities to bring together people of all ages and backgrounds to work on valuable projects, educate each other, and feel a part of something bigger than themselves. Participating and investing in these types of opportunities supports community growth.
Even as a college student, buying local doesn’t have to equate to breaking the bank. Here is a price comparison of the Microfarm stand’s current produce and H-E-B’s organic selection to show how affordable locavorism really can be.
|Broccoli||$2.00 (1 carton florets)||$3.77 (two regular heads)|
|Cauliflower||$2.00 (per regular head)||$3.98 (XL head)|
|Red Russian Kale||$2.00||$2.48|
This list is brief and does not include all available produce but is a good snapshot of affordability. Amounts and prices may vary slightly when buying from the Microfarm stand, but we try to be as fair as possible. If this still is out of your personal budget, perhaps try adopting the first tenant of the Reduce, Reuse, Recycle mantra. Reflect in which areas of your life you consume the most and produce the most waste, and which areas you can cut back on. Reducing the overall amount you consume can save you money, which can in turn be used to purchase organic produce grown close to home. This is a seemingly overwhelming task, yes, but there’s no need to rearrange your whole life. All it takes are baby steps to help!
Here in Austin, we’re lucky to have a lot of options when it comes to buying local produce. There’s the Microfarm stand (sooo local), HOPE farmer’s market, the UT Farm Stand, which begins tomorrow at noon, and many, many more. Check out the map below to find a farmer’s market near you.