Yesterday, I announced that my family is going to be eating a 90% local diet. I have been putting a lot of time and effort into meal planning and making meals recently, and my kitchen is an absolute disaster. Seriously, I have never seen it so messy. That’s because I have to make everything.from.scratch. Locally made bread? Hard to come by. I know it exists, but I am not driving to 5 different locations just for groceries. The farmer’s market and what I can order online is about all I have time for. Remember, I am a working mom of 2 toddlers.
The reason, though, that I am working so hard to accomplish this goal is that it’s important to me. Now, you may not want to go as extreme as I am going, and that’s perfectly okay, but here are some reasons to consider transitioning some of your foods to locally produced, more sustainable choices.
1. You will get your produce for cheaper.
The number one reason is going to be a self-serving one. Even if you are driving farther away to buy your produce, I am almost 100% sure it will be cheaper. I have yet to encounter a situation where it is not the same price, if not cheaper, unless you are comparing organic to non-organic, in which case, you aren’t making a fair comparison. When you shop at the farmer’s market, the farmers there pay very little to set up their stands. The programs are usually state and municipality supported. Most of the money they make there goes into their pockets to support their family and their business. They also don’t like to overcharge. Most farmers I meet are pretty honest people, and they aren’t going to nickel and dime you to make a few bucks. They are passionate about what they do, and they enjoy bringing the area produce at a reasonable price. Here are some examples of grocery store vs. farmer’s market prices for ya, just in the last week:
1) Butternut Squash. $2.29/lb at Harris Teeter. $0.79/lb at the Farmer’s Market.
2) Apples. $2/lb at Harris Teeter. $7/bag containing about 10-12 apples (probably about 5 pounds) at Farmer’s Market.
3) Sweet Potatoes. $0.87/lb at Harris Teeter. $0.49/lb at Farmer’s Market.
Now I’m not trying to pick on Harris Teeter. They are a reputable business with good products (generally speaking). However, they do have an overhead significantly larger than the farmer’s. They have a lot of stores with many employees, electricity, refrigerators, lights, cameras, action, etc.
The farmer’s market? Well it’s a pretty low budget gig. It’s outside. There are some cheap tables and a low-budget shelter. There are some people helping out, usually the farmer’s kids (I suspect they are underpaid ). The overhead is lower, the middle man is gone, the price is cheaper. Plain and simple.
This applies to produce, but does not necessarily apply to meat, however. If you compare Whole Foods prices with the Farmer’s Market, then yes, it is going to be cheaper. That’s because the product is comparable. Meat at the regular store, however…well I wouldn’t trust it and that’s all I’ll say about that.
2. You can be a little nosey hoo-hoo.
This is me, so I’m not sure if this applies to you. I like to ask questions. Tons and tons and tons of questions. My husband HATES going to a restaurant with me. “What kind of salad dressing is this. Do you make it in-house or is it pre-packaged? What kind of oil is in it? Are the olives salted? Are the tomatoes refrigerated? Were the chickens raised humanely?” And that’s just the salad. Needless to say, it takes us a while to order when we go out. That is ESPECIALLY true now that I am on a gluten-free diet. “Did you prepare this on a separate surface?” and all that jazz.
Farmers though, they LOVE questions!!! Seriously! They LOVE it when you are interested in how your food is made and how they make a living. I love talking to farmers. I could spend hours at the Farmer’s Market. They answer my questions about when the pesticides were sprayed and how often they spray (remember, many local farmers cannot afford to go 100% organic, but I always make sure they are non-GMO). They answer my questions about the seasons and when certain products become available. They answer my questions about chow-chow (Seriously, what is chow-chow? I still haven’t figured that out despite the explanations). They answer my questions about how many rows of carrots they plant. I ask a lot of questions, and I have yet to get even a semblance of an annoyed look. They are very happy to answer and I am very happy to learn more about how my food is grown.
3. You will have fewer unhealthy temptations.
Don’t you hate going to the grocery store right before dinner? You know what the worst is? The check-out line. They line that sucker with candy and chips. They do that on purpose! It’s really evil and mean, but it works. When you’re hungry and it’s almost dinnertime and you’ve just spent an hour shopping for your food, you could definitely go for some soda and chips. Now I won’t say that there aren’t temptations at the Farmer’s Market. There are. That German Bakery that always sets up their booth right in between the produce stands! Oh, they kill me every time. They sell Gluten Free products. True story. But there are certainly fewer temptations. At least the temptations at the Farmer’s Market are a little healthier, anyway. I’d take Almond Flour Cake over Canola Oil Laden Chips any day of the week. Any. Day.
4. You will be supporting your local economy.
This isn’t just about supporting local, family farms. You could do that by ordering from countless websites that have small, sustainable food practices. I am not against that at all. There is something to be said, however, for supporting someone right in your home town. When you buy that farmer’s sweet potatoes, you aren’t just getting potatoes that haven’t been on a truck for 2 weeks; no, you are also getting to send that farmer’s daughter to college. You are getting to make a small micro-payment on the farmland’s mortgage or taxes. You are helping out your neighbor to support his business so he can live the best life he can, too. That’s how the system is supposed to work; I support you, you support me. The global and national economy has skewed that a little bit in that certain areas of this country (and world) are booming while others are going stagnant. I don’t like that. I like to know that my money is staying in this town and country.
5. You will build relationships with your community.
Did I mention that I talk to farmers a lot? Oh, you got that, did you? Seriously, though, I am a woman and I need a social outlet. I feel like going to the Farmer’s Market is a fun, social outing. Oh, sorry, is my “Mommy” showing? It’s true, though. When I go to the grocery store, I talk to no one, read 50 million labels, scrutinize foods carefully, maybe say hi to the meat-counter guy, check out and then get outta there. When I try to ask the cashier how her daughter’s church event went, well, she kind of blinks and looks at me funny. That’s probably because I don’t know her that well. She probably doesn’t even have a daughter. I DO know my local farmers and their families. I like keeping up with them and their lives! I probably know too much about them….
…Anyway, it’s kind of fun to get to know people, dontcha think?
6. Your food will have more nutrients.
Well, I suppose that depends on whether you buy fresh or frozen produce. “They” say (and I have verified) that frozen nutrients are more nutritious because they are “flash frozen” at the “peak of freshness”. This may be true, but I just don’t like them as much. I love, love, love fresh produce. You could always flash freeze it yourself, if that’s your thing. I also love being able to ask the farmer when a certain item was picked (see item #2). Sometimes it was earlier that day. If that is the case, I hurry it home and cook it up to preserve those nutrients. Or sometimes I let it sit in the fridge for a week and then eat it. Hey, what’s the difference between that and letting your food sit on a truck for a week before it gets to your grocery store? Hmmm? I am pretty sure Washington Apples aren’t flown in from Washington State. I’ve heard Washington State apples are absolutely the BEST apples in the country….but after a week on a truck and Lord only KNOWS what else they’ve been through, they sure don’t taste as good as my fresh, day-old North Carolina apples. You should try it. I’m sure there are apples in your state, too. (Plus, my farmer doesn’t spray apples on harvest day. I know this because I asked.)
Well, that’s all I can think of for now, although I’m sure there are plenty more reasons. Make sure you comment below and let me know what YOUR reasons are for buying more local produce. Thanks for stopping by!