As I’ve mentioned before, I am from Vancouver, Canada. I moved to Barcelona, Spain, a few months ago to study a master’s degree. As a nutritionist, one of the most noticeable changes in my life has been the quality of the food that I buy. Back in Vancouver, because of the price, distance and the availability of farmers’ markets and local food markets, it was more difficult for me to support my local farmers. In Barcelona, it’s been much easier. Barcelona has many more farmers’ markets because people here follow a derivative of the Mediterranean diet. They prefer to pay a bit more in order to buy their ingredients fresh. There is no Costco or Whole foods. The big supermarkets don’t carry as much fruits and vegetables as the ones in Vancouver.
Wherever in the world you currently live, if you have the option of buying from local farmers instead of big chained stores, I recommend you to do so. Here are some reasons why:
1. The highest risk of food contamination, especially for fruits and vegetables exists during transportation. If the food you buy comes from a different country, it has probably gone through some kind of processing or modification to make it last longer, then transportation, and then a few days of storage. Now, compare that to the fruit that is picked from the tree or plant, doesn’t get treated with preservatives, spends about 30-60 minutes max in transportation, and no time in storage. The difference in the quality is multiplied, and if you ask me, I’d say it’s definitely worth the extra dollar you pay for it. The fresh fruits and vegetables get fully ripened on the farm first. When you buy them, they have maximum freshness and flavour.
2. Farmers have one of the most critical, and at the same time, difficult jobs in the world. If we keep supporting big agribusinesses, there will be no room for smaller farmers to do their job. Family farmers have knowledge passed down to them through generations. Unfortunately, nowadays many of them don’t get the chance to use their farming knowledge, as they don’t have sufficient income from farming and they have to look for other sources of income.
3. You get a better idea of where you food comes from; to know what farm produces which product, and in what type of soil and climate conditions. You can learn about weather or not your food goes through any type of modification. More importantly, if you buy your meat and dairy from the farmers’ market, you can find out a lot about how they’re made. For example, things like if the farmers use or do not use antibiotics on their animals, pesticides and herbicides on their animal feed, and about the conditions in which their animals are raised. These are all information that would be greatly appreciated, but most chain stores do not provide these information for their customers.
4. Due to the little time farmers spend on traveling and transporting their products, less fossil fuels are used. This way, you’d be indirectly reducing your carbon footprint by supporting a business that doesn’t contribute to transportation on an agroindustrial level.
5. You would make many new friends. You’d become a part of your community by shopping from local farmers, seeing your neighbours, exchanging recipes and small talk. You can enjoy your shopping as oppose to seeing it as a chore. In addition, you’ll see many homemade products such as jams and marmalade that cannot be found in the big chain stores.
I have decided to continue buying local and fresh produce here in Barcelona. After seeing how much healthier and happier it makes me feel, I will also continue doing the same thing when I move back to Canada after my studies. It is true that in Canada I would need to travel longer distances and spend more money and time on my local produce, but It will definitely be worth it. To me, this is a form of “self care” that works for my life and my personality really well.
See you next time!