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Local farmers and produce highlighted in Homegrown

Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno. His column, Greenlight, appears weekly in this space.

Farmers are cool. They have great stories—great stories that we want to tell.

That’s the basic concept for Homegrown, the new feature we’re adding to the Green Days section of our paper this week.

On a weekly basis, we’ll be scouring the countryside to find the farmers and food producers who are bringing their wares to the market that week. That is, we’ll run stories about local strawberry farmers when strawberries are in season. Or squash, or apricots, or broccoli.

Seasonality is important, because that’s when you can purchase the freshest, best-tasting food for the best price. Who wants imported broccoli that’s been scientifically engineered so it won’t rot on its long journey from South America, when you can have fresher, better tasting broccoli that’s grown right here at home?

But suppose local broccoli isn’t in season. What are you going to eat then? It’s simple, really. In Northern California, the growing season for produce never stops, and there’s almost always a suitable substitute available that’s fresh and in season, even for broccoli.

There’s another important reason to support our local farmers and food producers besides good taste: It helps the local economy.

Consider that as an SN&R reader, you are joined by 330,000 other readers, who collectively eat 1 million meals per day. If all of our readers increased their purchases of locally grown produce and food products by just $5 per week, that would inject $1.6 million into the local economy each week, or $86.5 million per year.

That’s $86.5 million that remains in our community instead of being exported to South America.

In turn, $86.5 million will be multiplied through shopping at local stores and eating at local restaurants. The general rule of thumb is that when sales stay within the community, those dollars can be multiplied by five times their value. Thus, if our 330,000 readers increased their spending on local produce by $5 per week, it could add $400 million to the local economy per year.

That is a heck of a lot of dough.

And that’s still not all. Buying locally grown food cuts down on greenhouse-gas emissions, since produce doesn’t have to be shipped here from thousands of miles away. At the same time, it helps preserve our dwindling fossil fuel supplies.

In short, buying locally grown food and produce is one of the main keys to creating a sustainable community. That’s precisely why we’ve added Homegrown to our sustainability section. That and the fact that farmers are cool. Enjoy!