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Buy local, even in winter

12/06/03 12:00AM By Ron Krupp
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(Host) Many people are used to buying local produce during the summer and fall, but commentator Ron Krupp says that there's plenty of good reason to invest your food dollar locally - even after the harvest is over.

(Krupp) As the holidays approach, and the world of food looms large on the horizon, did you ever wonder about the choices you make when you shop at a supermarket or sit down to an evening meal?

Probably not. Where do your food dollars go to anyway? And what about the energy costs on that head of lettuce transported from California. Most of us don't have a clue to the answers to these questions, but maybe we should.

In most of the US, a typical plate of food travels close to fifteen hundred miles before it gets to your table - whereas food from a farm stand or farmers market travels about 45 miles.

That's quite an energy savings. Another statistic might surprise you: the percent of the US food dollar going to most farmers is 9 percent. But when you buy local, as much as 80 percent of your food dollar gets to the farmer. And there are other considerations.

In a recent marketing survey, 71 percent of consumers said they would be willing to pay more for locally produced food and food that was grown in ways to protect the environment. 92 percent said that genetically modified foods should be labeled, and 77 percent said that government policies should focus on helping the family farm.

Although widely perceived as a rural farm state, Vermont is just like the rest of the Northeast in that over 90 percent of our food is imported. Vermonters spend about $1.3 billion on food every year. If we directed 10 percent of our food dollars to local producers, more than one hundred million dollars would be recycled into the local economy. That's not small change.

Too many Vermont farms have gone out of business and sit idle or have been sold for development. The farms that remain provide open land and pastoral scenery. Buying local is a pleasure in season, especially when it means stopping at a farm stand, going to a Farmers' Market, or buying a share in a Community Supported Farm, or what are called CSA's. There are currently 37 farmers' markets, 91 farms stands and 31 CSA's in the Green Mountains.

The recent "Buy Local (It's Just That Simple)" campaign by the Vermont Department of Agriculture urges people to watch for the Vermont seal of quality labels at farm stands, farmers' markets, grocery stores and restaurants. The white labels with green lettering and a red clover are placed on an array of roducts, including milk, cheese, vegetables, maple syrup and of course, apples and cider. By the way, that head of lettuce from California costs 25 cents just to ship to Vermont. Why not have a tasty, homemade slaw made from Vermont cabbage and carrots?

Happy holiday season. This is Ron Krupp, the northern gardener.

Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.




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