The Love of Local Food

A version of this article was printed in the Rutland Herald on March 8, 2016.

By Lindsay Courcelle

When you live in a place like Rutland, you become accustomed to hearing a lot of buzz about food. With the biggest year-round farmers market in the state, Rutland boasts a strong agricultural community making local food readily available for our region’s citizens and visitors.

But why buy local food? For me, it has to do with the people, the place and the flavors. The stories behind each harvested ear of corn or strawberry or green bean.

My family is so grateful and lucky to eat as well as we do, day in and day out. There are days when our dinner table boasts only food whose stories we know fully. We know that the pork chop came from a pig who had black spots and was raised in an abandoned orchard. We know the story of the potatoes: grown from tubers we’d saved from the previous year, in a productive patch at the north end of the garden, next to the late fall carrots. And the applesauce, from wild apples we picked and cooked down on a cool October day.

Something about knowing these stories makes the food so much more satisfying than a plate from a chain restaurant, filled with reheated, processed food that hardly resembles its raw starting point and whose story we’ll never know. In these places, the French fries are made in a factory from potatoes grown in massive monoculture fields, locations unknown, and harvested by machines. Who knows if a human hand touched the potatoes at any point in the process from field to plate.

To some people this doesn’t matter. But to me, this is everything. Of course, my diet is not entirely local and I’ve eaten plenty of processed foods in my day. But when I know the farmer who toiled to get food onto my plate, I can appreciate it more. I can nearly taste the love of land and beast that some food was grown with.

The goat’s milk that my friends squeeze by hand and bottle in glass jars is brimming with the love and care they give to their herd, even when that means late-night trips to the barn during kidding season. The melons that survived a summer hail storm are full of the essence of a farmer’s devotion and prayers that the weather gods not wreak too much havoc. The intention that the farmer puts into their work is absorbed into each molecule of milk or melon. The sunlight that shines down on Rutland County, Vermont, USA, Earth, is contained in that food, and eating that food just feels…right.

For many people, buying local means keeping dollars in the community, ensuring that a local farmer can buy winter coats or boots for their kids. It also means that the food is fresh, rather than trucked across the country in refrigerated trucks. And, of course, people enjoy the thriving working landscape we have in Vermont, with well used barns dotting the land instead of housing developments.

No matter your reason, buying locally grown feels good. Try it and you’ll see.