Saturday, September 25, 2010

Buying Local Veggies and Fruit is Cheap

Some people have this perception that buying local fruits and vegetables is more expensive than buying stuff on sale at the grocery store or buying frozen.  But I have years of informal research into this topic now and I can say unequivocally, in my area, buying local fruits and vegetables in season is the cheapest option.  As I have kept my preservation notebook, I have started to be more in tune with the height of a particular produce season, so I plan my preserving around those times. 

Furthermore, I would argue that eating fresh food is a way to stay healthy and avoid expensive health problems and doctor visits.  When I was at the eye doctor recently, he commented on my healthy eyes and I joked that I eat my carrots.  My optometrist very seriously launched a speech about vitamins and vegetables and said kale, spinach, and broccoli are also very important for eyes.  Yes, my family eats a lot of those leafy greens because the farmers grow and sell those things around here.  And they're cheap.

My latest case in point when we stopped by an Amish farm on our way to a train ride and picnic:

1 bushel IPM  Ginger Gold and Old Smokehouse apples, $9.95

big broccoli heads, $.95 apiece

Then my family played very hard.

And rode the train back in the dusk with an apricot full moon over the fields. . .the air had softened and the train whistle floated back to us so winsomely. . .it was a lovely evening.

Now, let's discuss your informal research on the topic of cheap local veggies and fruits. I know my area is rich in farmers, so maybe other areas have to rely more on shipped produce.


Deanna Beth said...

Wow, I just paid that very price for a half bushel of MacIntosh apples at the orchard down the road from me. I was going to say that I paid the same price as you, but then I realized the difference in measurement. How depressing. Now, this particular orchard is known to be higher than other places, but I went there today because it really is right across the river from me and terribly convenient. Plus, I needed some apples for the apple crisp I promised to the friends we were visiting. (Post coming)

Christian - Modobject@Home said...

I concur with your observations... For me the biggest obstacle is finding the sources. This takes energy and a little extra work (at first) but once armed with the information (like your preservation notebook) it's easier to plan local produce purchases.

I found out a few weeks ago that one of my friends now has chickens and sells her extra eggs. Now I know who to call when I want to buy local eggs. But, being "in town" and not so well connected with the local ag industry... sometimes it's just hard to track down the local produce.

Margo said...

Christian, yes, finding the sources is the hard part. I'm so fortunate that I have 2 farmer's markets just blocks from my house in our city - but I am always sleuthing for new sources by talking to friends who have friends who know somebody.

My husband talks about voting with our dollars, so I like to vote for the local stuff when I can and hope that farmers see that someone wants to buy their produce, so make it more widely available.

Tracy said...

Like Deanna Beth, I generally pay $9 for a half bushel of apples from our local grower. However- I've been selling baked goods at the farmer's market this sumer and was given several half bushels in exchange for a loaf of bread and some cinnamon rolls. What a blessing!

We grow everything that we can, but then I buy from the farmer's market if necessary. It's always cheaper than my local grocery store- and fresher, too!

kim said...

I am very lucky being able to buy local produce from our local farmers, who, once a week, set up stalls in the town centre to sell their produce, which is harvested that morning. Also our local butcher sources only local meat from surrounding livestock farms, and of course we are pretty famous for our Hereford Bull and also Bulmers cider, so the apples around these parts are plentiful too......and many different varieties.......but the most important point is, it's all easily accessable, and if you are so inclined you can "pick your own" of any friut or veg in season, which is a cheaper option again.

Gina said...

I totally agree! I'm already mourning the time when I'll be back to grocery store produce. It just doesn't compare (in price OR quality) with local.


Melanie said...

My informal research has led me to the same conclusion. My records have also helped me get some of those hunches to a more concrete place; planning meals around what is available in season locally has easily saved our family of two 40% in food budget in the last two years. That includes buying extras in the high harvest season to put up, allowing us to spend less in the low harvest season. And I know we are healthier for it, too!

I'm also fortunate to live within blocks of the largest farmer's market in Maryland. I find it very interesting, in talking with friends who live in the suburbs, that even though they are technically closer, geographically, to the farms, it is actually harder for them to access the produce, meat, dairy, etc.

We also believe in voting with our dollars, so I encourage my suburban friends to keep working on it, to find ways to make extra time to get to the markets downtown, and to encourage their friends and neighbors to do the same. This past summer turned up a victory for one of the communities where many of our friends live - the Wednesday morning only farmer's market was able to expand to Sundays, too (tricky for church, but doable), making that market more accessible for so many families who have two parents working during the week.

This is one of my very favorite soap-box topics, so I must watch myself ;-) Thanks for the great conversation starter!

Anonymous said...

The market stand where I buy all our produce, Farm to Family, is run by a husband and wife who have made it their mission to get fresh, local produce, dairy, and meat (grass fed) to populations of the city that don't have access to such things on a day-to-day basis. Every week they drive a modified school bus into areas of urban blight to sell local produce in the inner city. I love purchasing most of our food from them because a.) I know that the money goes directly to local farmers, b.) it's cheaper than the grocery store, and c.) I'm promoting slow food politics.