You may have heard suggestions to eat locally-grown produce as much as possible. But why?

Michigan State University has compiled seven benefits of consuming local foods which are as follows:

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1. Locally grown food is full of flavor

2. Eating local food is eating seasonally

3. Local food has more nutrients

4. Local food supports the local economy

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5. Local food benefits the environment

6. Local foods promote a safer food supply

7. Local growers can tell you how the food was grown.

All of these benefits are true to either a large or small degree, and they each illustrate that local food is the best food to purchase whenever possible.

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Expanding on the fifth benefit mentioned, carbon footprint should be taken into account since local foods are defined as “foods from a determined radius (100-250 miles) from one’s home,” which limits the carbon footprint of locally sourced foods. One gallon of conventional gasoline turns into 172 cubic feet/4.87 cubic meters of CO2; an amount that quickly adds up when transporting food. As far as the whole or inclusive carbon footprint of food goes, 11 percent accounts for transportation, 83 percent accounts for conventional production and harvesting, and four percent accounts for final delivery from producer and retail, but it seems that that last percentage could be omitted or reduced from local food; therefore, the final greenhouse gas emission from fruits and vegetables comes to 11 percent as opposed to 30 percent from red meat.

If you’d like to calculate your exact footprint, then click here and find out, but read on to discover the best foods to get at your farmer’s market!

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We’ve figured out why you should go to the farmer’s market and buy locally, but which foods are the best to buy once you’re there? Farmer’s markets tend to have cheaper prices, especially when it comes to organic food (for example, they’re 40 percent cheaper in Vermont), but not all markets have the same prices. For instance, living in Las Vegas with no local farms around, all the food at farmer’s markets comes from California or Northern Nevada, so it’s not truly “local,” and the market is super expensive. So, for those of you on a budget but who still want to buy locally, here are five foods that you should try to buy locally.

1. Berries

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and more exotic berries all taste better when fresh, like most fruits. Ripe berries can be found at most farmer’s markets in the summer, and you can easily get mounds of them for a decent price. Organic berries are best, so try and search for these.

2. Corn

With most corn being genetically modified nowadays, there are still some organic options, all be them rare. Farmer’s markets are where these rare anomalies are more prevalent, especially in regards to corn. Your best bet is to find organic, non-GMO corn at a farmer’s market, so scope out your local one for some delicious ears!

3. Grapes

These purple, red, or green globes of sweetness are known for the delicious wine and juice that they make, but the fruit itself is highly susceptible to “pesticide poisoning.” They’re right up there with corn on the dirty dozen list, and as such, they should always be purchased locally and from small organic farmers who you can trust! Buy grapes from the summer until late fall at your farmer’s market and taste the difference.

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4. Tomatoes

These ruby red fruits are smack dab in the middle of the dirty dozen list, meaning they are one of the most common foods to be tainted with pesticides. At the farmer’s market, tomatoes are usually plentiful since they grow everywhere ― even in the dry desert of Las Vegas! Always get organic tomatoes on the vine at your local market.

5. Apples

This ubiquitous and crunchy fruit is also on the dirty dozen list. Because it’s so common of a fruit, genetic modification and pesticide contamination commonly affect the fruit; therefore, buying organic apples is the smartest thing to do. But, an even smarter thing to do is to buy organic, local apples! You can ask your local farmer about their apples and have a direct connection with them to ensure that the fruit is organic.

Check online or in your local paper to find out when your farmer’s market is every week. See if the market has any of these five foods, and ask the merchant how they’re grown. You’ll see that many of the crops are organic and grown with minimal or no pesticides.

Image source: Skillet Asparagus & Tomato Medley