From Bicycle Commuters to Buying Local – I Saw Wellness in Action in Portland, OR!

They say that in traveling, you see the world with new eyes…and how true that’s been for me lately! I visited Portland Oregon, for the first time, a couple of weeks ago, and came home with a mind full of possibilities.

First of all, I want you to imagine the setting with me – breathtaking natural beauty! Oregon is called “The Rose State” and while I was there the roses were in full bloom. I’ll share some of my experiences in the stunning Rose Garden in another post.

Oregon is also known for its progressiveness…and I was thrilled to witness all of the many ways in which the people of Portland have embraced socially and environmentally healthy practices in their city! Just as a couple of examples…

Rather than commuting by car, many people bicycle to and from work. At 8:45 a.m. PST Monday I was crossing the Heiberger Bridge and noticed a monitor, which stated 1502 cyclists had rode across the bridge that morning. More than 450,000 had crossed it from Jan to June 9. Amazing!

Rather than walking around with earbuds in and eyes glazed, or focused on a cellphone or tablet, people in Portland were walking down the streets interacting with one another or paying attention to the natural beauty. How refreshing!

What impressed me most, however, was that buying local appeared to be the norm… in fact, Oregon seems to identify itself by its local farms and manufacturers.

Farms…ah, the Farmers’ Markets!! If you know me, you know how I love farmers’ markets. They are my happy places… so when I stumbled upon the Portland Farmers’ Market in my wanderings, I was in bliss! I bought fresh snap peas, strawberries, local organic fudge made from Honey Mama’s. My favorite flavors? Mayan Spice Nectar Fudge and Organic Mint Nectar Fudge – pure decadence! And then there was the gluten free bread from Happy Campers GF and for lunch, curry cauliflower and organic corn tortillas. Mmm tasty!

And then when I was at the airport on my way back to Maryland, what should I see but a store called Made it Oregon, where all of the products were made by Oregon businesses. I bought chocolate for my co-workers, as well as Dried Royal Ann Cherries…scrumptious!

So as you might guess, I was thrilled with all the local things I could purchase.

And why is buying local so important to me? There are so many benefits – here are just five:

  1. When you buy locally grown produce, it’s likely to be the freshest possible, picked just hours before it arrived at your local store or farmers’ market. When you’re purchasing produce that’s been trucked across country, or shipped from abroad, it’s days (or weeks!) older. Probably picked while it was immature, it hasn’t ripened naturally, but instead started to deteriorate. Sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality, flavor…and nutritional value. See this page for more information on the impact of shipping on the quality of your food.
  2. Buying local produce means that you’re buying seasonal foods… those which are naturally at their peak right here, right now. Traditional Chinese Medicine, and other traditions also, teach that in-season, local foods best support your overall health and wellness. Check out this link for more information.
  3. Buying local reduces your environmental impact: Let’s face it – a truck going from a Maryland farm to a Maryland grocery farmer’s market is going to produce less exhaust and require less in the way of resources for transit than a big rig doing a transcontinental haul or a ship going halfway around the world. This generally means contributing less to traffic, oil consumption, road wear, accidental spills, demand for road expansion, and greenhouse gases. See this page for more info.
  4. Buying local supports local business. Not only do you get to know the farmers who are working to grow your food – you create relationships with them, learning about their struggles while they learn about your needs and preferences (isn’t a local farmer more likely to hear your worries about GMOs and pesticides than, say, Walmart?). And when you put money down for your week’s produce, you know you’re supporting the people who do the work, not a billionaire’s offshore account! Check this page to see the economic impact of buying local and to see summaries of a variety of economic impact studies.
  5. Buying local builds local prosperity. With every dollar you spend on a local business, you’re paying for local jobs, taxes, infrastructure, volunteer involvement and new business investment. Talk about a win-win! See this page for loads of information on the economic impact of buying local.

So now you may be saying – Great! How do I get started? Well, here is a link to find a farmer’s market in your area. Personally, my favorite local farmer’s market is the Baltimore Farmer’s Market.

I’m hoping to see you there!

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