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Why “Eating Local” in Oxford Does More than Taste Good

The Oxford Community Market takes place at the Community Pavilion April-November, Tuesdays, 3-6:30 pm. (Georgia Clarke)

Eating locally sourced food has risen in popularity in Oxford and across the nation with the growth of farmer’s markets, more restaurants enacting “farm to table” menus, and even big chain grocery stores selling more locally grown products. There are proven economic and health advantages to shopping and eating locally, and such advantages keep local farmers producing and customers buying. 

“It’s locally produced so, I’m supporting local people,” said Roger Kuhnle, a frequent shopper at the Oxford Community Market. “They don’t use as many chemicals and it doesn’t have to be transported. There are a lot of reasons. It’s more sustainable.”

The Oxford Community Market recently began a new season at its University Avenue location, hosting more than 20 vendors offering items like locally grown strawberries, fresh eggs, and an assortment of breads.

Cartons of strawberries lined the table at Native Son Farm’s booth. (Georgia Clarke)

The weekly market features vendors like Will Reed, who owns Native Son Farm. Reed says he’s been producing certified naturally grown produce in the state for almost 8 years and believes local food “has the power to change the world and specifically has the power to change the problems we’re facing in Mississippi,” including the economic picture.

According to the research firm Packaged Facts, local foods generated $11.7 billion in sales in 2014, and it is estimated that the number will reach more than $20 billion by 2019. Research from elocal.com, found that about 33.6 percent of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, which is low compared to the 64.8 percent return from local businesses.

Reed said “Mississippians spend about $8 million every year to import food from out of state, and more than 90 percent of the food that’s on our plates every meal is imported from somewhere other than the state of Mississippi, which is kind of tragic because we are an agricultural state.”

“We have fertile land, we have a great population and we do have some unemployment issues, so local food has a potential to strengthen our economy quite a bit,” he said.


Buying and eating locally sourced food also has health benefits.

Many locally sourced products are grown and produced organically, and even more, these items are often much fresher than what is found in chain grocery stores.

Kevin Guyer is with Poultry in Motion, a small business selling at the Oxford Community Market which produces bread, crafts, plants and what they’re named for, eggs from free ranged chickens. Guyer said these eggs are much healthier than what is found in grocery stores.

“The eggs you are getting in grocery stores are often two to three weeks old, whereas when you get them right from the chickens, they are so good for you that they don’t even affect your cholesterol badly. They are actually low cholesterol eggs because they come so quick and so fresh,” Guyer said.

Reed said local food is nutritious and tastes better, too.

“It’s healthier. In Mississippi we’re facing sort of a public health crisis that’s diet related, so local food is a way to combat that. So, if we get people eating locally, hopefully they will be healthier. We may see less heart disease, diabetes, and stuff like that,” he said.

The Oxford Community Market serves as a hub for growers and producers to showcase their products and share them with the public. Reed said it is also a way for the community to come together and support each other.

“This is not a faceless grocery store. You’re interacting with the producers of the food, so buying local vegetables really connects you to the local landscape,” Reed said. 

“These are things that come from the soil and shopping locally gives Mississippians the opportunity to further add to our already great and diverse cultural landscape,” Reed said. “The stuff we’re growing is unique to our place. It’s going to taste different due to our soil and climate. Local food just has a ton of advantages.”

Story by Georgia Clarke, gcclarke@go.olemiss.edu.

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