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You can shape your local food system

By: Nancyjo Riekse, Guest Columnist Guest Columnist I see the phrase “locally produced” or “locally grown” in many places these days – grocery stores, specialty food shops and even restaurants. This expanding interest in buying and consuming local is driven
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I see the phrase “locally produced” or “locally grown” in many places these days – grocery stores, specialty food shops and even restaurants. This expanding interest in buying and consuming local is driven by both personal and environmental factors. Some consumers buy locally produced food for its superb flavor. Others want to know who grows the food they eat and believe that food purchased directly from the farmer is safer. With the high fuel prices, some even recognize that buying locally helps support the environment as well. But what does “local” really mean? To some, “locally produced” means food products grown within “a 100 mile radius” of where they live. I would take that one step further and say that “local” also means making a personal connection with the people who grow your food. While buying food at a grocery store is convenient, there is a barrier to the grower connection because store products often come from out of state and even out of the country. A logical solution would be for grocery stores to expand their food offerings and to promote “locally grown” produce, meats, etc. Farmers markets are a great start, but not all Placer County producers sell all of their products at those markets. Getting such food items from producers to the grocers will require developing local processing facilities and distribution systems that don’t yet exist in Placer County. There are also issues of financing, marketing, and policy and management that must be addressed. Local food systems enhance community connections and help develop regional identity and character. They provide more meaningful livelihoods for farmers and agriculture workers, encourage community interaction, and build mutually respectful relationships. • With greater local control and support, we can build a local food system that improves community health by selecting foods and ingredients based not just on convenience but on qualities of flavor, freshness, and nutrition. • When communities manage and take ownership of their food system, they are better able to create a healthy, affordable, and stable community food supply that discourages global-scale food distribution systems. • Supporting small farms and food entrepreneurs is supporting your local small business community. Support services keep money cycling through the local economy, making that economy more stable and viable. • Food that is produced in Placer County is typically from small and mid-scale, sustainable farms. Creating stronger ties between communities and their local food systems fosters a connection to the land and value in the protection of that land. The Placer County Agricultural Marketing Program and PlacerGROWN are here to help voice these issues helping local producers market their products, collaborate with the County and local associations to provide outreach and community education, You can help shape Placer County’s food system by buying locally whenever you can. You can also become a community member of PlacerGROWN (www.placergrown.org). The next step you take can be as big as visiting a farm or as small as becoming more aware of what’s offered locally. Do what you can, do what’s comfortable. It’s up to you! Nancyjo Riekse is Placer County’s Agricultural Marketing Director