Local foods have become a growing item of interest in recent years. In fact, the term “locavore,” a person who eats locally produced food, was added to the Merriam Webster Dictionary in 2009.
Local foods take on extra importance in a community such as Sitka. For one thing, we live on remote Baranof Island, which means no roads. The vast majority of our food has to be shipped or flown into Sitka.
Even though many Sitka residents hunt, fish and gather berries, it’s estimated that as much as 95 percent of our food is imported from the Lower 48 or other countries. Rising fuel costs, the potential of a longshoreman’s strike or a natural disaster that makes it so planes can’t land at our airport means Sitka’s food supply is vulnerable. We also don’t have many large storage facilities, so we can’t keep extra food supplies in town. Also, in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, Sitka was Alaska’s original garden city. By promoting local foods, we are encouraging food security and self-sufficiency for Sitka.
Another reason to promote local foods is the distance our food travels to get to our plate. Much of our food travels thousands of miles to get to Sitka, and many of the types of food we import can be grown right here in Sitka. Check out the photo at the top of this page to see locally produced food and the distances similar food travels to get to our grocery stores. With rising fuel costs and a limited fuel supply, it makes sense to grow food locally so we don’t deplete our natural resources. Local food is more sustainable.
Local foods also are healthier for you. Most fruits and vegetables start losing some of their nutrients once they are picked, and food that has to travel spends more time off the vine or stem than local foods. Since local foods are fresher, so are their nutrients. You also know what’s been sprayed on local foods, especially those grown in Alaska where many pests can’t survive so most of the harsher pesticides aren’t needed. And, if you’re growing your own food, you’re more likely to be doing your own cooking and less likely to be relying on processed foods and all of their additives.
Here are five additional reasons why local foods are important (courtesy of the Alaska Farmers Market Association Web site):
- The produce tastes better because of our cool climate. Our cool nights make the vegetables sweeter and more delicious than anything grown in hotter climates.
- The produce tastes better because it’s fresher. With vegetables grown just a few miles away, harvests can be much more recent and produce can be picked at the height of its freshness than produce shipped from Outside.
- Your produce will stay fresh longer after you buy it, because it was so fresh to begin with.
- The transportation costs of buying local food are much lower than buying produce that has been shipped from the Lower 48. You’re conserving all kinds of energy by buying local food.
- You’re supporting local farmers and gardeners, and you are ensuring that farming and local food production will remain viable in Alaska.
For more information on the local foods movement, check out these links:
Click here for the Last Frontier Locavores site (also called the Alaska Locavores site)
Click here for the Local Harvest site
Click here for the Slow Food USA site
Excellent write up on the benefits of local foods!!
Quick FYI – there is a Southeast Slow Foods Group- Mostly Juneau-based right now but very inclusive and interested in growing with our fellow Southeast foodies!
There is talk of doing a bit of an “Exchange” to hold events in various Southeast communities to promote growing, buying/selling and eating local foods.
See their Facebook page link below
Also: my UAF Cooperative Extension Office is in Juneau, your local agent, Bob Gorman, is at http://www.uaf.edu/ces/offices/sit_do/, we are actively working with our Extension colleagues throughout SEAK on the issues related to Food Security and Community Sustainability in AK.