Bioregionalism is defined as an advocacy of the belief that eating, product procurement and other human activities should be sourced from local areas. It’s not something that is always practical, but when it is, bioregionalism should be observed.
With respect to food, bioregionalism drastically increases the overall quality of ingredients and products. Naturally all products procured with bioregionalism in mind often travel less distance. This ensures that the conscious consumer receives the product at peak freshness more than any store bought counterpart. Some products in stores are already a week – and sometimes more – old and have bounced around in a truck, plane or boat leading to bruised and damaged produce. As discussed in this post, many products are now selected not for flavor, texture or other desired criteria, but instead selected for their transportability. Bioregionalism allows for a more biodiverse selection of products to be both shared and consumed. Another trait of bioregional products is that they will frequently be of peak ripeness, and as a result, peak flavor. Many fruits will continue to ripen off the plant, this qualifies them as a climactertic fruit. While many fruits fall into this category – tomatoes, peaches, bananas and more – only one fruit truly has to be ripened this way; pears will rot if left on the tree to ripen. Any other climacteric fruit is only picked and allowed to ripen to make for easier transportation and increase shelf life, and this compromises the flavor. Ripening on the plant, climacteric fruits will still develop more natural sugars and better flavors. Not only does bioregionalism allow for these fruits to achieve this ripeness before you enjoy them, it also makes a plethora of other unseen varieties – ones usually to delicate to transport and market – to be enjoyed in commerce. Both the markets for purchase and the nature of products that support bioregionalism create a higher demand for quality-minded products. Farms or individuals sell and back these goods, as opposed to larger industrial agriculture systems and their purveyors. The producer has a delicate reputation to maintain. If a product is consistently poor, it won’t sell. This ensures that farmers and producers have a much higher set of standards than those who sell to larger stores and never meet face to face with their customers.
The nature of bioregionalism is such that it promotes the support of local markets. This ensures that money stays in the region as opposed to flowing to into industrial agriculture or the industrial food system. At the Oneota Co-Op here in town, more than 40 cents of every dollar spent stays within 50 miles. That money goes to farmers and growers, our neighbors, and helps expand the growth of a community still recovering from economic instability from decades of industrial agriculture. More often than not, bioregionalism also helps create lasting connections. Farmers and producers wish to place a face behind their product and often will represent it at farmer’s markets and through community involvement. This offers a new opportunity for both consumers and producers to meet, network and create new social connections.
Bioregionalism offers us, the C3, quality products, lasting relationships and a fantastic alternative to some of industrial agriculture’s products. But it takes effort; driving to a farm to purchase items, making trips to farmers markets and cooperatives, doing the research simply to find these bioregional outlets is an involved, but rewarding, process. Maintaining observation of bioregionalism can be hard and it’s fair to observe it when practical. Certain ingredients – coffee, tea, chocolate, among others – are not easy products to come by in Iowa, as well as other places. Enjoyment of them is fine, but it is important to remember the real cost of the goods – footprint on the Earth, fossil fuel consumption to transport, people and time dedicated to producing this product and many other factors – not just the price tag. I encourage you to endeavor to eat and shop locally. You’ll encounter new experiences, discover fantastic tastes and learn alternatives to both things you love as well as things you might not. Bioregionalism can enrich your life as well as the lives of those directly around you.