The COVID-19 outbreak has brought sharply into focus what a truly global and interconnected society we live in in the twenty-first century. This has yielded astonishing benefits and opportunities that could barely have been imagined even fifty years ago – however with these positives have come other checks and balances that in times of global crisis, can mean we are standing on shaky ground when it comes to dependence on other countries for goods, services and income.
In Australia, fortunately we are well-primed for a situation like coronavirus when it comes to keeping up food production, with our strong agricultural sector and supply lines. A global event such as a viral pandemic reminds us of the importance of supporting our local providers, not just in times of crisis but for the good of the community and the environment as a sustainable, long-term network.
One of the biggest benefits of buying local is reducing your food miles. Sure, it makes you feel posh sitting on your patio chomping down on that aged stinky cheese handmade in the Swiss alps by arthritic nuns, using milk from some random goat breed you can’t pronounce. You feel cosmopolitan sipping your $18-a-bottle certified organic pale lager with hints of chocolate with one hand, imported direct from a microbrewery in the northern hemisphere, and skilfully fixing your manbun with the other.
What you don’t see, and what doesn’t make it to your Instagram account, is all the miles and therefore coal and oil that it has taken to get these artisan foodstuffs onto those wooden cutting boards masquerading as an actual dinner plate. Buying local ensures a lighter carbon footprint due to a shorter distance from paddock to plate.
You are also supporting your local community and growers, which helps buff up your local economy. Buying local usually equals cheaper, as you are not paying for the food miles, packaging and admin time involved in food transportation. Your dollars are also going toward supporting growers and their farms, which has a knock-on effect to the economy of your local area as jobs are created and the money flows on to other local businesses.
The other downside of foreign foodstuffs or relying too heavily on imported food is when there is an interruption in the supply chain, in the case of an oil shock, or a pandemic where international borders are shut down indefinitely, the well dries up and there is panic as people start hoarding food, believing there will be mass starvation. In less dramatic times when things are more stable, the reduced food miles, packaging and supporting your local community is doing good for the long term, both for people and the planet.
Want to know where you can shop local in your area? Check out Local Harvest, which has a searchable map to help you find local markets!