Although many people know organic food is healthy, not everyone realizes that eating locally-grown produce can be just as important.
The advantages of local produce are three-fold: it helps the environment, stimulates the local economy, and benefits the human body. The closer a product is grown to where it is eaten, the less transport, energy use and greenhouse gas output involved, according to Kenneth Broad, the director of the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy at UM.
“Nutritionally, foods that travel over distances typically lose essential vitamins and minerals, especially those affected by light and heat, like the water soluble vitamins,” said Lisa Dorfman, the director of the Master’s in Nutrition for Health and Human Performance Program.
The average meal travels 1,500 miles from a farm to a dinner table, said Elena Naranjo, the program director of Earth Learning. This means that fruits and vegetables are picked before they are ripe and sprayed with artificial chemicals to make sure they last.
Earth Learning is an organization whose mission is to re-localize the food economy by connecting farmers and consumers in the Greater Everglades region.
“Why are we shipping food from Chile and Mexico when we have it right down the road?” said Lydia Mackie, Earth Learning’s market manager, who arranges harvest markets in South Miami and Downtown Miami.
Almost all the fresh produce at UM’s weekly farmers market comes from farms in Homestead. This excludes the grapes, pineapples, mango and bananas. But many grocery stores surrounding UM get their produce straight from farms in Homestead and other locations throughout South Florida as well.
At the Publix on Monza Avenue in Coral Gables, premium tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, and yellow and white corn all come from farms in the Redland.
The average time from being picked on the farm to being placed on shelves at the store is 24 to 48 hours, according to Publix Produce Manager Alex Carattini. Once it is processed at the warehouse, it is transported to the supermarket.
Whole Foods Market
Whole Foods prides itself on providing customers with the widest possible selection of locally-grown produce in efforts to not only supply fresh, high-quality products but also to support strong relationships with local farmers, said Melissa Jacobs, the marketing team leader at the Whole Foods Market next to Sunset Place.
Tomatoes from Borek Family Farms and Alderman Farms, squash and zucchini from Lady Moon Farms, and sprouts from Fullei Fresh and Green Garden Organics, are currently on the shelves at Whole Foods, Jacobs said. All the organic produce is labeled. This means the fruit or vegetable has been certified organic by an independent third-party certifier following the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s standards.
The Fresh Market
At The Fresh Market in Coconut Grove, shoppers can identify locally-grown and regionally-grown produce with the labels “Grown Round Here” and “Miles Fresher,” indicating farms within 100 miles and 300 miles from the store, respectively.
Most of The Fresh Market’s organic produce is not local because there are not many organic farms in South Florida. Fresh Market only takes tested and certified organic produce.
Currently, Anderson Farms is one of The Fresh Market’s few local organic suppliers. Produce like zucchini, yellow squash, and grape and cherry tomatoes are on sale at the store.
Community-supported agriculture (CSA) is a system that allows people to support local farmers and enjoy fresh produce. Customers purchase a share of produce from farms in the area and have it delivered on a weekly or biweekly basis. The CSA Endlessly Organic offers discounts to the UM community.
Each produce share has about eight to 10 vegetables and four to five fruits. Delivery to UM began the week of May 2. Produce is selected from local organic farms and delivered every other week. Everything is fresh, chemical-free and ready to eat, according to a flier.
For more information or to sign up, visit endlesslyorganic.com. Select UM as your site and use coupon code UM15 during checkout to receive 15 percent off your first box.