Inside the Newsroom

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Friday, May 1, 2009

Guest Column: Shopping Local Pays Off

Note: This guest column by state Rep. Pam Byrnes, D-52nd District, is a reminder that the Saline Farmers' Market opens 8 a.m. Saturday and continues every Saturday through Oct. 31. I encourage you to check it out.

Shopping for local produce pays off

As the weather warms, our farmers are busy working toward another successful harvest. Amid all the negative economic news, there lies an opportunity to make a difference in both the local economy and in our own personal lifestyles. This summer I encourage more people to buy their produce and groceries from the array of farmers markets in our area. Spending money on locally-grown food boosts the economy and helps our neighbors stay employed. This sort of agri-tourism keeps money in our community while providing us fresh fruits and vegetables, which are vital to maintaining healthy diets and lifestyles.

While purchasing a bag of vegetables and fruits may seem like a relatively minor thing, buying locally has the potential to help our economy immensely. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture, if every Michigan household spent just $10 per week on Michigan-produced food, it would keep nearly $40 million every week working right here in our state.

As communities, we need to continue to embrace this growing sector of agri-tourism as farmers markets have proliferated across the state and country. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers markets listed in the national directory grew to 4,685 – a nearly 7 percent increase from 2006 to mid-2008. While this growth is good, continued success for the agri-tourism industry and farmers markets will rest, in part, on consumers spending their money in this industry.

In addition to the economic benefits for vendors and farmers, patrons of farmers markets also stand to benefit from supporting local agri-tourism, as shopping locally can reduce grocery costs. Many farmers are willing to sell the exact quantities you need; meaning you don't walk away with an entire bag of food when only one or two items were needed. This also leads to less unused food going to waste. Also, prices are generally lowest when produce is in season. Buying locally eliminates many of the transportation costs associated with moving the food from production site to your kitchen table.

The benefits of shopping locally at farmers markets extend well beyond simply cutting your grocery bill. A diet with significant portions of fruits and vegetables provides valuable vitamins and nutrients essential to long-term health. These types of foods also are naturally low in fat and calories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says healthy diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. With soaring health care costs nationwide, taking a preventative approach to medicine is one way to potentially reduce health care costs.

So as we all embark on another great Michigan summer, let's make an effort to support our local agri-tourism, while at the same time making healthy lifestyle choices. Improving both the economy and our health are important to the overall quality of life in Michigan. I hope to see you at a farmers market in the upcoming months.

House Speaker Pro Tempore Pam Byrnes can be contacted by phone at 1-517-373-0828 or toll-free at 1-800-645-1581. Her e-mail address is and her Web site is

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