7 Easy Ways to Access Fresh Produce and Increase Local Food Security
Vertical farming, roof top gardens, and farm-to-table options all help you access produce that is tasty, healthy, and as fresh as can be while increasing food security in your community.
We all want fresh food. It tastes better, lasts longer, and is more nutritious than produce that’s been sitting on the shelf. Fresh food also looks better- decorating our dinner plates with lively colors, shapes, and textures.
However, with rapid urbanization taking place throughout the world, residential areas are increasingly farther away from the farm, and therefore produce must travel vast distances before reaching the final consumer. This distance often reduces the freshness of produce while also emitting greenhouse gases from transportation, refrigeration, and food losses that occur along the way.
Food products travel by air, ship, train or truck depending on the product, season, and where the consumer is located. Studies suggest that on average food in the USA travels between 1,000 to 1,500 miles before reaching the final consumer!
This process can take anywhere from several days to several weeks, and some produce may be stored for months or even years before reaching the supermarket shelf.
Apart from the environmental cost, this distance also reduces the nutrient-content of food, the shelf-life, and taste. Furthermore, this distance poses threats to local and global food security, as crises such as natural disasters, pandemics, and other unforeseen events get in the way of the supply chain, and can therefore reduce access to critical supplies of produce.
However, as awareness surrounding the importance of food security grows, there has been a renaissance of fresh and locally grown produce made available through the urban farming movement, organic farming options, farm-to-table dining, and the use of agriculture technology such as vertical farming and indoor farming.
Continue reading to learn more about these approaches, and 7 easy tips to access fresh produce year-round.
- Shop seasonally
Shopping at a supermarket, it is easy to forget that nature works in seasonal cycles, and that not all crops grow year-round- in fact, very few crops grow year-round. To meet demand, the modern western supermarket, however, provides all produce all-year long, which results in produce such as avocadoes and pears being sold several months or even years after harvest. The more we buy seasonal produce, the easier it is to access fresh produce.
Programs such as your local community supported agriculture (CSA) can provide you with local, freshly harvested, seasonal produce that is typically harvested and delivered on the same day by a local farming business. Shopping at a farmer’s market in your area is another great way to access fresh seasonal produce. Farmer’s markets also introduce you to your local growers and are great places to meet other people in your region who care about organic farming. By fostering a community of like-minded individuals in your city, it is easier to build an urban farming network, which ultimately can enhance food security and food autonomy.
- Explore on-site vertical farming and indoor farming options
Vertical farms use agriculture technology such as: hydroponic, aeroponic, or geoponic methods to grow produce in stacked levels. These farms sell fresh produce because they can be grown on-site in urban areas, and therefore don’t require storage or transportation time. These indoor farming methods also use controlled-environment agriculture which enables them to grow produce all year-long- meaning that you can access fresh basil even in the wintertime without any transportation or storage.
- Explore farm-to-table and organic restaurant options
Farm-to-table restaurants have been designed to provide consumers with the freshest produce available. These establishments source their foods as locally as possible, and some are even located at or near an organic farming business that employ various organic farming methods such as biodynamic farming, regenerative agriculture, and biointensive farming, which are all methods that increase food security by growing food sustainably.
The average organic restaurant also prioritizes freshness and the local economy, and will therefore source their produce as locally as possible.
- Opt for creatively packaged produce!
Another method to access fresh produce is to consider the packaging. Recently indoor farming businesses, such as Vertical Field’s offer produce with the roots still firmly planted inside the soil. This provides consumers with the option to purchase food that is still metabolically alive- meaning that the consumer can harvest their produce right at home.
- Map out your local region for community-based fresh food options
As food security and food sovereignty grow in popularity, most cities have urban farming options such as: a roof top garden or a community garden. If not, perhaps you could start one. These programs increase social capital, environmental awareness, food security, and bring people together.
- Grow your own food
One of the best ways to access food as fresh as possible is to grow it yourself! Vertical farming options are a great way to grow produce when you don’t have a lot of land, such as in an urban or suburban area. A vertical hydroponic system can be placed in a backyard, porch, or roof for example. Container gardening is another way to grow produce where minimal land and soil is available. Vertical farming is also a great method for those with limited mobility (such as the elderly) because produce can be harvested with minimal movement. Organic farming courses are available online or in-person and can help get you acquainted with urban farming options such as a roof top garden or vertical hydroponic system.
- When to shop
Another method to access fresh produce is to ask your local supermarket or local farming business which days they harvest/receive their inventory. Whereas some larger supermarkets receive new inventory daily it is not always local- store managers can help you find the most local and freshest options.
In today’s macro-economy it’s easy to get lost in the accessibility to foreign and globalized products. Using the tips above, you can access food that is fresh, local, healthy, and delicious, while also increasing food security in your region.
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