Eating local food is all the rage these days… farmers markets are popping up everywhere, people are interested in where their food came from. And it is championed by big names – authors such as Michael Pollan, farmers such as Joel Salatin and chef’s such as Alice Waters.
The trouble is that buying local may not be as cheap as buying conventional grocery store items despite the high millage costs that the grocery store produce has incurred. Lettuce and tomatoes at the grocery store may be on sale at half the cost of the locally grown lettuce and tomatoes at the farmers market. A can of tomatoes costs less than a pound of fresh tomatoes. And why should we pay $6-$7 a dozen for locally farmed, free-range or pastured eggs when we can buy them at Costco for half the price?
Visiting the farmers markets, buying local is more time consuming… it is easier to go to the grocery store and throw stuff in your shopping-cart. So why should we bother?
The thing is, by buying locally, you are not only getting a superior, more nutritionally sound and fresher product, you are supporting local farmers and businesses. You are providing employment for local people. And you can ask questions – how is this grown? What fertilizers and pesticides did you use? Is it organic? How were the pigs raised? What supplemental feeds were they given? Is the beef grass-fed AND grass-finished? Is any grain given to the beef-cows as additional food? you can’t do that in a big grocery store because the staff don’t know the answers to these questions.
By voting with your money, by buying local, you are ensuring that local products will be available in future. That the small farms won’t get swamped and bought out by big agri-business farms. That huge conglomerates like Monsanto won’t dominate the market and flood it with their GMO Round-up Ready crops. That heritage varieties, those tomatoes that taste like a tomato is supposed to, will still be available.
That real food, food as it is meant to be, will always be available.
Yes local, real, organic food is more expensive. And some of us are on tight budgets (believe me, I know about this all too well!), but buy wisely. When you have to compromise, do the best you can. If you cannot afford to buy everything organic, at least buy the Dirty Dozen as organic, and compromise on the Clean Fifteen from the grocery store. Shop wisely, shop seasonally. Don’t buy fresh strawberries and asparagus in December… Seasonal produce is always cheaper.
Don’t be a defeatist and let the fact that you cannot afford to buy grass-fed beef for every meal mean that you never buy grass-fed beef – buy it for a special occasion. Or negotiate a deal and buy a large quantity at a discount (maybe split half a cow with a couple of like-minded other families and stash your share in the freezer).
If you can only afford 1 dozen pastured eggs occasionally, make them count… don’t use them in recipes where you will never taste them, and don’t use them to make “fake-paleo” cookies, muffins and breads. Use them as eggs, where you will benefit from all the nutrition they contain., and can appreciate their superior flavour.
Consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) to get the best deals on local, fresh, seasonal veggies and fruits. Or plant a veggie garden and grow your own… lacking in space? you can grow herbs and some veggies in window boxes, tubs and planters. Use hanging baskets for tumbler-style tomatoes. Consider vertical gardening on your deck, balcony or front porch. join a community garden.
You can’t get something more local that produce that you can pick from your own garden!