21 Reasons to support local foods
- Food direct from the producer is fully traceable
What more can we say? It’s short food-chain at its most straightforward and it’s food you can trust. The farmer produces it and sells it either from his own farm shop, through a box scheme or from the farmers’ market stall. And he (or she) can tell you all about it. The parentage of the livestock, the breed and why they choose to rear it; the crops and varieties and why they produce them -which may be because of soil conditions, micro-climate or because they simply like the taste.
- The best ingredients and great value for money
Great chefs know that great meals start with the best quality ingredients. That’s why so many are fans of farmers’ markets, farm shops and even PYO when they have time. And buying direct offers good value for money; eggs from the farmers’ market are always fresher and almost always cheaper than eggs from the supermarket. When you do pay more (and it’s only a very little more), it’s for quality food produced on a small scale with care – it is, if you like, almost priceless to be able to buy food from people who are truly proud of what they do.
- Food sold direct from local farms is made with love and care
Farmers selling direct are generally from smaller family-run farms. Selling direct gives them direct contact with you, the consumer, so they know immediately when they’ve produced something delicious. Your comments are welcome - more seasoning! Less honey! It goes straight back to the recipe.
- Support your local economy
Money you spend on foods grown and produced locally goes further because it helps local farms to stay in, and grow their businesses. As they grow they will need to employ more local people. They will also buy from local suppliers whenever possible further increasing the value of your locally-spent £.
- Support local farmers
If you want to be sure that you are supporting farmers you need to buy locally direct from them at farm shops, farmers’ markets, Pick-Your-Own and box schemes. No middle-men means that farmers get more of what you pay for the foods, which is fair when they are putting in all the work too.
- You can try something new
Farmers enjoy food, and they are enjoying being creative with their produce to bring you new flavours.
- So fresh it’s exciting
Try Pick-Your-Own for an exciting way to get your food. Anyone can buy strawberries from the supermarket! Be different, go to a Pick-Your-Own farm and buy only the best in the field when it’s ripe and ready to eat.
- Reduce food miles
Food miles are clocked up when food travels and you don’t want to collect these because they add up to an enormous amount of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly when produce is air-freighted (as much of it is for daily delivery). Research shows – and common-sense confirms - that when you choose to buy locally produced foods from a farm shop or farmers’ market you reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions associated with distribution.
- Reduce packaging
Unnecessary food packaging accounts for a high proportion of waste in both costs and materials. Buy direct from the farm and from farmers’ markets and you buy less paper, cardboard and plastic.
- Reduce waste - not just yours but the farmer’s too
A proportion of food grown for the supermarkets is rejected because it’s the ‘wrong’ size or shape for example, or may simply not have the right colour. It’s perfectly good food! Farmers selling local foods offer nothing but the best and will include large and small and irregular shapes because that’s how nature does things. Enjoy the difference and have fun!
- Meet some very nice people
When you buy locally from farms and farmers’ markets you’ll meet some very nice people. Most farm shops are run by family businesses and you’ll find they are keen to tell you about the foods they grow, rear and make on the farm and their local suppliers. Farmers’ market stallholders are standing behind the foods that they have grown, reared and made themselves, and they are truly proud to be able to offer you their very best.
- Keep the countryside looking beautiful
The British landscape has been created by the farming that suits it best. Keep it looking lovely by buying what it produces direct from the farm whenever you can. Farmers love their landscape too and it has to provide a living for them.
- Local foods make travelling interesting
When you go abroad, do you try to eat the local foods and doesn’t that help make a holiday memorable?
It’s the same in this country except that foods with local character tended to disappear from view as supermarkets tidied their supply lines up for easier management.
The good news is that you can now buy locally produced foods almost everywhere in the UK by seeking out farm shops, farmers’ markets and, of course, Pick-Your-Own.
Local tourist information centres should have details; there is a list of FARMA member sites on this webite and, for a bigger list take a look at www.localfoods.org.uk
- You get the freshest and best foods
Pop some fresh peas from the pod and eat them ... or try sweetcorn when it’s freshly picked from the PYO, farm shop or farmers’ market. You can even eat it raw, it’s so sweet and tender. What happens is that, from the moment it’s picked, the sugar in sweetcorn begins to turn to starch. The older it is, the more starchy it gets. So freshest is best for flavour.
- Buying direct from the farm is an education
Whether you buy at the farmers’ market or from the farm you can talk to the farmer to ask about how the food was grown or reared. You can visit the farm, either as routine because it’s where the shop is located, or for special events and open days.
And don’t forget Pick-Your-Own. Children are very welcome and it’s exciting to see food as it grows and taste it when it’s really, really fresh.
- Buying local foods direct gives you lots of choice and varieties to try
Farmers and local producers selling direct at farmers’ markets, through farm shops and PYO like to offer you something different.
Where can you buy bison or ostrich meat? Direct from the farm. Where can you find cheeses made from the milk of buffalo herds in the UK? Direct from the farm.
You’ll find rare breed meats (although it seems strange, the only way to keep rare breeds alive is to continue to farm them to produce meat) that you will not find in supermarkets and which offer excellent flavour and texture. You’ll also find different fruit and vegetable varieties. Strawberries are a good example. On Pick-Your-Own farms you might find Kimberley, Florence, Sophie, Elan, Flamenco, Honeoye, Hapil (a great big soft juicy berry), Korona, Elvira, Eros and others – new varieties come in each season. Each of these has a distinct flavour, texture, shape, colour and time of ripe perfection. By visiting the PYO farm often, you’ll get this choice.
Look out also for apples - there are hundreds of British varieties, not just one or two. You’ll find more of them when you visit the farm or farmers’ market to buy.
Plus cherries (in July) and plums (in August and September)...
- We have seasons for produce
It’s easy to forget that, while the British climate produces some of the most fabulous tasting fruit and vegetables, we cannot grow them all year round. Buying direct from the farm and farmers’ market puts you in touch with the seasons when the produce is the best you can get. It’s a fact that shopping with the seasons makes your cooking (and your family meals) more varied – you simply can’t cook the same thing all year round!
- Support your farmers’ market
Buying from your local farmers’ market, even if it’s very small, helps your local farmers and small food producers to survive and thrive. With your continued support and enthusiasm, the farmers’ market will grow and grow, and become a bigger, even more exciting market.
- Support your Certified farmers’ market
The FARMA Certification symbol will help you to recognise farmers’ markets that are operating according to guidelines which protect you and genuine stallholders from being cheated. We think that this is important because local farmers put in lots of hours of hard work to bring you produce that they have reared or grown themselves. Other local producers at the market may offer foods they have brewed, baked, pickled or caught and they must all be present in person to sell. Anything less is not a real farmers’ market.
Look out for the new Genuine Own badge appearing at some farmers’ markets now. It is another assurance for you that you are buying foods grown, reared or made by the stallholder, based on a professional inspection of the farm and/or production premises.
- Discovering local food is exciting
You will probably never lose the sense of excitement you feel when you discover your first really good farm shop, PYO or farmers’ market. Local foods are interesting, they are carefully made by people who love food. And their enthusiasm passes to you, which is exciting for everyone.
- You can find out more about the exciting world of direct sales from the National Farmers’ Retail & Markets Association (FARMA). We exist to support farmers and producers who are selling direct with the aim of increasing their professionalism and improving their prospects for the future.