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6 Reasons to Eat Local Food This 4th of July

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It's time for 4th of July weekend and that means swimming, sunshine, vacations, fireworks and...... farmers markets. In case you haven't noticed, farmers markets around the country are bursting with all kinds of delicious fruits and vegetables just waiting for you to enjoy them. Here are six reasons to show your red, white, and blue by buying local foods this holiday weekend.

1. Small Farmers Are As American As Apple Pie
: The concept of the small family farmer is deeply ingrained in the American consciousness. It's a symbol of good old fashioned hard work, respect for the land, and it is an iconic part of our history. However, these days, a majority of our food is produced in a highly mechanized and industrialized system where farmers are essentially contracted workers on their own land, who then sell their crops (usually corn and soybeans) to large, multinational food corporations. If you buy from small farmers, who you can find at farmer's markets, a lot more of your money is going towards supporting individuals in your community. It's the difference between shopping at Wal Mart and shopping at the store owned by your neighbor. In these tough economic times, you can show your support to the people who live in or near your community.

2. You Are What You Eat: Xanthan gum? High fructose corn syrup? Phosphoric Acid? Processed food is full of additives, sweeteners and preservatives, much of which we can't even pronounce, let alone know what they are. When you buy local foods produced on a small scale, what you see is what you get. I know I'd rather eat a vegetable than something that comes in a package with a laundry list of mystery ingredients.

3. The Incredible Shrinking Carbon Footprint: When you eat food that's produced near you, you reduce your carbon footprint. When strawberries travel on refrigerated trucks for days from Mexico, it takes way more energy than transporting them 50 miles from New Jersey to a farmer's market in New York City. Small farmers also usually practice far more responsible forms of growing -- the food is often organic, they work the land in a sustainable way, and take more responsibility for the health and safety of their workers. With less fossil fuel burned and less pesticides sprayed, you can feel good about taking a bite out of local food.

4. Fresh Is Best: When there is a much shorter distance from farm to table, the food you are eating is likely to be super fresh. Can you taste the difference between a mealy, refrigerated tomato and a fresh, sun-ripened one? There's no contest. It's easy to do a good thing when it tastes so delicious.

5. Because Everybody's Doing It: There is a growing movement to eat local foods this 4th of July as a celebration of food independence. Advocates are encouraging people to sign a petition urging the governors of every state to eat local this July 4th -- all signers pledge to eat local this weekend too. You can take the pledge on Facebook where over 25,000 people have signed up. A number of governors have already committed to local eating this weekend, and have even released their menus. In Montana they are having huckleberry milkshakes; in Maine, Lobster; in Maryland, crabcakes; and in South Dakota, goose jerky (!). Governor Rick Perry of Texas even has a twitter bubble video describing what local food he's going to eat this 4th of July. Yum! Click here to view an interactive map of which governors are eating local, and what dishes they have planned.

6. Talk With Your Wallet: There's nothing more American than a simple lesson in supply and demand capitalism this July 4th. If you support local food by buying it, you increase the demand for the foods you want and the farming and food practices you agree with. This makes the market for these foods stronger and more profitable. As demand increases --ta da! So will supply, helping to reinvigorate the good ole American small family farmer.

Don't know where to start? Here are some food tips from Planet Green, and some delightful recipes from The Atlantic Food Channel to get the ball rolling. And check out HuffPost Blogger Leslie Hatfield's post on declaring your food independence.

And Finally.....

HuffPost Green wants to know what locally grown foods YOU are cooking with this 4th of July. Send us your high resolution photos and links to the recipes you used. Please include your name, location and a caption for your photo and send it to huffpostgreen@huffingtonpost.com. We want to see what America's eating. Happy 4th!

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