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Local produce is good for health, environment and local economy

By RON PATTERSON USU Extension Agricultural Agent

Local fruits and vegetables are good for your health, the environment, and the local economy.

Imagine taking a bite of a juicy peach. How would you like to pop a few ripe raspberries into your mouth? How about fresh, crisp cucumbers, or local honey? Would you like corn on the cob that was picked within the last 24 hours? You really can't beat the taste of truly local produce.

Those who have the time, space and energy to garden receive healthful benefits in two ways-exercise and healthy food.

The flavor of fresh produce is vibrant. In addition, unprocessed, fresh fruits, vegetables and meats are healthier for you. The most important point is to make sure they have been handled and stored correctly. Fruits and vegetables should be washed before eating, regardless of the source.

Working out in nature also does wonders for our physical, mental, and spiritual health. The physical activity helps us keep our muscles in tone. The peace of early morning hours planting or weeding helps us start the day in a calming manner. The tranquility of songbirds and quiet repose helps to strengthen our spirits. If it is possible we owe it to our peace of mind to feel the joy of life around us.

Locally grown fruits, vegetables, and meats are also healthier for the environment. A study conducted by the Worldwatch Institute in 2002 indicates that the average meal travels 1,500 - 2,500 miles to get to the table. In many instances it takes more fuel to get the food to the market than it did to grow it originally.

Locally grown produce also helps to keep more of our dollars spent right here at home. That money is used several times within the local economy, purchasing from local suppliers, and paying for the wages of other local people. Local purchases help to support public programs which benefit us all.

Do your health a favor. Keep it as local as possible. If you don't have the ability to grow some of your own produce, find a local gardener or check out the local farmers' market for an exciting array of fresh fruits and vegetables. In the event of a catastrophic emergency it is much more comforting to know there are local people who can produce and supply more food. A healthy community is self-sufficient for the most basic of needs-food and shelter.

Ron Patterson is the Utah State University Extension Agriculture Agent for Carbon County. He can be reached at 435-636-3233.

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