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Buy Fresh, Buy Local
By Amy Sheets
In the early 1990s, a nonprofit organization, Food Routes, was formed in Pennsylvania. Its purpose was to provide people with information on locally produced food, and give consumers a means to locate food and goods in their areas. Over the years, Food Routes expanded to develop regional chapters throughout the country. These chapters, called Buy Fresh, Buy Local, were created to support sustainable food and farming systems and connect those systems with local consumers.
“People have a lot of reasons for supporting locally grown food — environmental, organic, economic development,” says Anne Darby, associate planner for the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission. “Local food is taking off as a phenomenon.”
The local chapter of Buy Fresh, Buy Local began in the Richmond area two years ago. Providers from all over the Richmond metro region, including Chesterfield County, compile annual lists of everything from locally grown eggs and beef, to handmade pasta, candles and yarn. People can also participate in community-sponsored agriculture initiatives, or CSAs. In a CSA, people purchase seasonal “shares” in a local farm. In return, they receive a weekly share of what the farm grows during the spring and summer. The share is either dropped off at the person’s house, or picked up at a central location. CSA’s are popular — many have waiting lists — and are best for flexible shoppers, as contents vary from week to week, depending on what is being harvested.
Other options for purchasing local food include farmers’ markets, farm stands, and the grocery stores. Many stores indicate what produce is local, and tell customers where and when it was picked.
Buying locally grown or produced foods helps support small, independent farms, protects the environment from shipping goods over long distances, and helps keep money in the community. Regional efforts like Buy Fresh, Buy Local are making it even easier to find and support local agriculture.