Buying food that is grown and raised locally has many advantages. One is obviously the fact that you're supporting your local farmers, businesses, neighbors, the parents of your children's friends, etc. So you're definitely helping your local economy, as well as fostering community and well-being in your local town and neighborhood. Of course, the food you eat is also much fresher since it hasn't spent weeks in refrigerated trucks, warehouses, store coolers, etc.
From an environmental perspective, you're also cutting back on carbon monoxide emissions since your produce did not travel across the country spewing exhaust along its' way. Sounds like a win-win-win to me! The farmer is better off, so is the consumer, and so is the planet. Also, add to that fact that many of the local growers are growing organic or as naturally as possible, so that is an additional advantage.
The development of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) is also a great addition to the consumer's choice. You can actually have fresh produce delivered to your door once a week from your local grower. This saves you time, gas, and trouble as you don't need to drive anywhere to get your fresh produce. Another plus is that you get to discover new vegetables you've not been familiar with as they may be included in your weekly delivery.
The number of farmers' markets is on the rise. Living in the Gainesville FL area, you can find a farmers' market within a 30 mile radius almost every day of the week. The Local Harvest website has a wonderful search tool where you can find farmers' markets, CSAs, farms, grocery stores, restaurants, wholesalers, etc.
Map: Value of Direct-to-Consumer Sales by County, 2007
The Trip for Life: The Importance of Buying Local
Additional Information On Buy Local
The Local Food Economy in Two Charts - By Tom Philpott
First, the happy chart. The USDA recently released a report (PDF) that crunches numbers on recent developments in local/regional food economies. Sales are booming — and more farms are growing food for their surrounding communities, not global commodity markets.
US Dept Of Agriculture
Direct and Intermediated Marketing of Local Foods in the United States
This research documents that sales through intermediated marketing channels, such as farmers’ sales to local grocers and restaurants, account for a large portion of all local food sales. Small and medium-sized farms dominate local foods sales marketed exclusively through direct-to-consumer channels (foods sold at roadside stands or farmers’ markets, for example) while large farms dominate local food sales marketed exclusively through intermediated channels.
Farmers marketing food locally are most prominent in the Northeast and the West Coast regions and areas close to densely populated urban markets. Climate and topography favoring the production of fruits and vegetables, proximity to and neighboring farm participation in farmers’ markets, and good transportation and information access are found to be associated with higher levels of direct-to-consumer sales.