There are many reasons why fresh lettuce purchased from your local farmer is superior to the corporate-grown greens on your grocery store shelf. Here are the top five!
1) Local greens have more nutrition and better taste
Local lettuce is at its peak flavor, nutrition, and freshness, having been picked within 24 hours before buying it from your local farmer. Lettuce that has been shipped for hundreds of miles before making it to your grocery store, on the other hand, has little nutritional value remaining and has lost much of its flavor. Why? Because it is a week, and sometimes two weeks, old by the time you buy it off the shelf. The University of California reports that fruits and vegetables lose between 15% and 77% of Vitamin C (the official index for nutrient degradation) after just 7 days stored at 39F, about the temperature of a refrigerator.
2) Local greens are just as convenient as pre-packaged
Yes, you should wash the greens that you buy from your local farmer right before eating to make sure they are clean! But if you want to avoid a case of E. Coli, you also need to re-wash those pre- or triple-washed, week-old greens from the grocery store. And if you need to wash them again, you’re not saving any time buying the pre-washed variety. Consumer Reports found, in pre-washed and triple-washed salad mixes, “bacteria that are common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination—in some cases, at rather high levels.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a 2013 report, found that almost 25% of all food-borne illnesses could be attributed to bagged salads. So if you need to wash lettuce no matter what, wash the kind that has more nutritional value…the local kind!
3) Local greens are more water-wise
Speaking of water, let’s talk about your greens’ water footprint, which is the total amount of water required to produce and process a crop, and its water chain, which includes the steps requiring water during a product’s lifespan, from growing through purchase. Local lettuce has three water inputs during its water chain, including growth, after harvest, and before you eat it. Commercially grown lettuce, however, generally has four water inputs in the chain (during growth, after harvest, at the retailer, and in your kitchen). This makes for a lower water footprint for local greens.
4) Local greens likely have fewer chemical inputs
If you’re concerned about consuming too many chemicals in your food, buying local is the safer bet (and even better if you buy local and organic). Commercial lettuce is #15 in the list of top “dirtiest” when it comes to pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group. And traditional spinach? It’s the second most residue-laden produce you can buy (strawberries are #1)! Studies show that small-scale farmers are less likely to use pesticides than larger, commercial growers, making those local greens a cleaner bet.
5) Buying local greens benefits your community
When you buy salad greens from your local farmer, you can rest easy knowing that you’re helping out your local economy. Instead of your hard-earned food dollars going to a corporate grower, your money is being invested back into your community. And if you buy at a farmers’ market or farm stand, you can develop a friendship with your farmer, who will be able to answer questions you might have about the food you’re buying. Maybe you can even visit their farm with your family and friends if they have a pick-your-own option!
By, Christina Keibler