Fighting the Pocketbook

Fighting the Pocketbook

Jun 28

Have you ever visibly shuddered upon seeing the price of “natural, cage-free” eggs? I have. Have you ever stared down an organic piece of fruit, knowing that it’s probably cleaner, healthier and safer than the alternative, and still walked out of the store with conventionally grown fruit because it’s half the price? I’ve done that, too. Have you ever talked to a person about the love and care he put into growing the fruit he’s selling you, then left the conversation without buying a thing? That is a much less frequent occurrence, indeed.

You could interpret that as being guilted into buying something, the same way we are all duped into buying mediocre lemonade from young entrepreneurs every summer. To me, though, the proof is in the farmer. Buying “organic” produce in the grocery store is so far removed from reality that I am skeptical of its actual quality. Usually, my wallet wins out over my optimism. But when I buy local food direct from a grower, when I can look my grower in the eyes and talk to him about his methods, it’s hard to come up with any argument against spending a little extra money to keep in his overalls.

Agriculture in the United States right now is heavily weighted toward large-scale farms and food distributing corporations, so local and organic foods tend to reach a little deeper into our budgets. But as members of a capitalist society, we vote every day with our dollars. One of the ways we can make healthier food cheaper is to show our local produce managers that we are willing to spend out money on it. It’s sort of a catch-22, like the college graduate who is told she needs experience to get a job, but can’t get any experience until she has a job.

The best thing to do, if you have a tight food budget and are interested in voting for local food, is to start with one or two items — however much your budget allows. If you feel like strawberries, buy the organic label, even though all your other produce is conventional. If you need honey, stop by Audubon Park Farmers Market or College Park Farmers Market or Lake Eola Farmers Market and buy some local honey. (Believe it or not, we have a lot of beekeepers in urban Orlando!) You don’t have to fill a shopping cart with organic food to make a difference. It’s not all-or-nothing.

2 comments

  1. Deborah

    That’s the pickle we’re in… In trying to create the marketplace for local farmers, I have to ask the question, what comes first; gathering buyers or getting the farmers in line to create the food? Some say get the buyers and others say the later. I personally believe we have to find the marketplace (buyers) so our farmers know that their hard work will pay off.

    So in short, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Things won’t change until we, bit by bit, start partaking in the local sellers options even if it is one item at a time.

    The more we buy, the more farmers will grow and the cheaper it will get. Everyone wins but we must take the first step by finding a local source to begin to support with our buying dollars.

    • Thanks for the thoughts, Deborah! Farmers need to know before they even plant seeds that they have a market and can move their produce once it’s ready for harvest. So, current local farmers lose money (and their livelihood) without a strong customer base, and new farmers won’t even consider setting up shop here unless the market continues to grow beyond the current supply.

      Raising that demand one item at a time is a reasonable goal for all of those with tight budgets and lukewarm commitment to local food, but the real change will come from businesses and institutions. Just one restaurant or one school committing to buying local and organic food would significantly outweigh our influence as individuals. In short, if you really want to effect change, make it a point to ask the produce manager of your grocery store about stocking local produce, talk to your favorite restaurant managers about serving local fare, and get involved in your kids’ schools to let them know you want to see our future leaders eating the freshest produce possible!

Leave a Reply

*