Kelley Atherton, The Triplicate

Editors, vendors praise growing and eating local

Local, organic food is the future of the North Coast, according to Ann Anderson, one of the editors of the recipe book "Locally Delicious."

Anderson spoke on Saturday afternoon at the Regional Indoor Farmers Market about the importance of eating food grown locally because doing so supports farmers, the economy and the environment. Her fellow "Heirloom Tomatoes" were also on hand to sign copies of their book.

"Local, organic food is better for us," Anderson said, speaking not

only about personal health, but "the vitality of the community and the

world."

The more than 700 people who came to the market at the fairgrounds

must have gotten that message before Anderson's presentation even

started.

Some of the 20 vendors had sold most of their goods before 5 p.m.,

including The Dutch Gardener's Nun Better cilantro pesto and jars of

honey, winter greens grown by Ocean Air Farms and Big Foot Foods' smoked

salmon.

Other local farms, jewelers, artisans and organizations were also at

the indoor market.

While many local people are growing and making food to sell, it's

only a small portion - about 10 percent - of what people are eating on

the North Coast, Anderson said.

"Not enough is produced locally to sustain ourselves," she told the

audience as the vendors closed up their booths.

Anderson gave a list of reasons to eat local - the first being food

tastes better when it's ripe and fresh out of the garden.

Anderson said she and the other five women who put together "Locally

Delicious" dubbed themselves "Heirloom Tomatoes" because the old-world

variety of the red fruit "best represents the difference between fresh,

local food and

commercially produced food."

Bright red tomatoes at the grocery store are bred to travel well, but

don't have a lot of flavor, Anderson said.

By choosing commercial food, people are depriving themselves of a

variety of fruits and vegetables, she said.

As industrial food grew in the last century, about 75 percent of

those different varieties were lost, Anderson explained, adding that

many farmers today are trying to keep those old varieties alive.

"By supporting local farmers, that's how we get this variety," she

said. "Use it or lose it."

By growing more food locally, Anderson said, the North Coast region

could help solve one of its biggest problems: food insecurity (not being

able to afford healthy food or not having access to it).

Because only a small portion of food is being produced here, she

explained, people have to rely on food that's grown elsewhere.

However, if blight or disease infects a particular crop "we could

lose a huge proportion of our food," Anderson said.

Buying food from local farmers and producers keeps money in the

community, Anderson said, explaining that a dollar spent locally

circulates three times in that community.

In addition, businesses tend to donate to organizations in their own

community, she said.

"You're building a stronger community," Anderson said about eating

local.

By buying food locally, people can also see where and how their food

is being grown, she said.

Non-organic produce has pesticides and excess nitrates, Anderson

said, both of which are bad for the body and the environment.

To produce "industrial meat," she said, animals are treated

inhumanely and given antibiotics, which has led to the "modern problem"

of E. coli.

Living in close quarters makes animals more susceptible to disease

and they have to be treated with antibiotics, she said. Because there

are antibiotics in meat and therefore in humans' bodies, bacteria like

E. coli have evolved to be resistant to the medicine, she said.

Organic, grass-fed beef, she said, is healthier for the body because

it has less fat and no antibiotics or steroids.

It can be expensive to buy local organic food, Anderson said, but the

cost of buying commercial food is unseen.

What's not included in the price is the pollution industrial

agriculture causes and its effects on the environment and climate

change, she explained, along with the rise in health-care costs because

people are more unhealthy than they use to be from eating processed and

chemical-laden foods.

"It ain't so cheap," Anderson said.

The price of food is also tied to the cost of oil, she said. When the

oil prices skyrocket, so does food because it has to be trucked all

over the country.

"Local food uses 17 times less petroleum," Anderson said.

These are all reason to chose locally-grown food, she said. The more

demand there is to eat local, the more farmers can afford to grow food

and raise livestock - the soil and climate is already conducive for

agriculture.

"We live in an area where we can take care of ourselves," Anderson

said. "We can do it."

Grow food in back yards or community gardens, she advised, then

preserve for it for the months when there isn't as much fresh produce by

canning, drying or pickling it.

To get involved, Anderson suggested persuading grocery stores to

carry locally-grown food or joining groups involved in the local food

movement.

"We can win out over agriculture industrial giants," she said, "one

tomato at a time."

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