Another Reason to Buy Local

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Eating locally sourced food has become more popular recently and more people are shopping at farmers markets, co-ops and farm stands than ever before. Health benefits are one reason. Fruits and vegetables increasingly lose their nutritional value as soon as they are picked, so locally grown produce can get onto our tables faster, fresher and with more nutrients.

A second reason why eating locally sourced products is important is that it is good for the environment. Buying locally saves environmental costs such as transportation and refrigeration, using less CO2 to get product onto the store aisles. It also impacts our local growers – our neighbors. Our local farmers are often family businesses working and protecting agricultural land then spending money in the local economy while drawing out little tax dollar funded services in return. Without sufficient sales these businesses cannot continue and the agricultural land that is so important to our community will become residential or commercial property.

Another reason for supporting locally grown produce is less reliance on imports. Effective November 22, 2019, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will restrict the importation of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and pepper (Capsicum spp.) hosts of Tomato brown rugose fruit virus (ToBRFV). APHIS has determined it is necessary to restrict the importation of these plant species to prevent the introduction of ToBRFV into the US. APHIS requires that tomato and pepper fruit imported from Mexico, Israel, the Netherlands, and Canada to be inspected and certified at the point of origin to ensure the crops are symptom-free. Canada is a transit point for some fruit bound for the US.

ToBRFV is a tobamovirus that affects tomato, pepper, and some other solanaceous crops and weeds. Symptoms of infection include chlorosis (yellowing), mottling and deformation on leaves, and yellow or brown spots, green stripes, and deformation on fruits. ToBRFV is transmitted through contact (for example, contaminated tools and clothing) and propagated plant material (grafts and cuttings).

The risk of transmission through imported fruit and plant material (seeds and transplants) is very high. Simply handling the infected plant material (such as infected fruits in your lunchbox) and later touching susceptible plants can transmit the virus. The virus can persist in the soil.

It is estimated that here in NC we spend over $35 billion on food each year. If 10% of those purchases were from NC farms, $3.5 billion would stay within North Carolina’s statewide economy! So next time you’re going to purchase food, look for locally grown. To find out more about what’s available and where, contact your local N.C. Cooperative Extension office.

Minda Daughtry is Horticulture Agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.