Last year, I started an investigation into local food purely because I was touched by the organic food market vendors that used to spring up every Sunday around the corner from my flat in Paris. I'd just moved back to the Birmingham, UK, and I was Paris-sick; blue from leaving behind a sunny, beautiful city where the people still had an inkling of their relationship with nature, to what felt like a grey, ex-manufacturing city full of pseudo-food outlets.
A year on, and with the continued growth in the popularity of the local food posts on my blog, the discoveries I made from both English and French sources are something I'm keen to share both in the fact that they surprised me, and kindled a new understanding of our relationship with not only agriculture, but with each other, the environment, and a mindful respect of everything around us.
1. Everyone can eat local
There are plenty of definitions for local food, but I've come to interpret it as anything that was grown in a 100 mile radius of where you live. It's a quick and dirty rule that even city dwellers can apply - in my new London home there's plenty of farmer's markets to choose from!
2. It supports the local economy
I'm not just talking British here - your purchases will be benefiting the people who live within those 100 miles too, whether it's farmers, grocers, or even the friends you feed with the food you cook up at home.
3. You know where it comes from
Traceability is a really important issue for me - I like to know where my food has been just as much as I like to know it's organic through and through. By being able to see the food chain, whether it's through a veg box delivered to my door or speaking to a market stall holder, I know it's fresher, thus less nutrients have been lost on its journey to my stomach!
4. You're part of a community
Try as they might, supermarkets just can't beat that knowledge and friendliness of someone who's set up their own independent food business. I love meeting vendors who are passionate about their produce - whether it be a kombucha brewer or a farmer, it adds to that community feeling, sharing actual fruits of their labour!
5. It's sustainable
Local food naturally fits into a sustainable lifestyle: less transport, and less time in storage or in a shop means less energy wasted on the food. On top of that, local food often goes hand in hand with organic food too, meaning you're lowering demand for chemical-laden groceries.
6. You can avoid genetically modified crops
While discussion on the pros and cons of genetically modified (GM) crops rages on, I'm of the opinion that nature should run its course without our interference. Sadly, in April 2015, the European Union authorised 17 GMOs to be grown for human consumption in Europe. If you're like me, you'll be able to avoid all GMOs by eating local and speaking to the vendors about their seeds. If you live in Scotland, you also have the luxury of knowing GM crops won't be coming to you any time soon!
7. It's generally tastier
Local food will generally be harvested at the time of the year that it is naturally ripe. This respect of the seasonality of food often comes with a boost in taste too, with deliciously ripe produce, fragrant herbs, and more making it into the dishes I naturally crave within each season. Summer is for strawberries, right?
All in all, local food roots us back to the land and the way we used to farm a little over 100 years ago. If you're as passionate about food as I am, I genuinely think seeking out your closest producers will be of benefit to your health, your tastebuds, your community and your local environment, wildlife and all!