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Old 08-20-2008, 09:39 AM
Location: Loudoun County, VA
1,148 posts, read 3,228,218 times
Reputation: 402


Yes, this is about food but definitely belongs in the green living section.

A few years ago we started buying a lot of the produce we eat from the farmer's market. This was back in CA where everything was fresh and available during most months of the year. A lot of it was organic too, not necessarily certified organic but grown naturally nevertheless. Back then it was just me and DH and I didn't pay too much attention to the cost.

Last weekend I went to Wegmans (here in VA), a grocery store that sells a lot of organic/natural foods as well as regular groceries. In the front of the store they have a "grown locally" (non-organic) selection of produce where I've been happily buying local peaches, zucchini, corn etc. Again, didn't pay attention to the cost because it was local and felt like the right thing to do. But this time after I got home, I looked at the grocery bill. $2.99/lb for peaches. Four peaches came to about $3.50. DH has long ago given up on lecturing me about the cost of food but had this "told ya" look on his face when I showed him the receipt. So, I decided to go to the neighborhood Giant (a normal grocery store) to see what their peaches were going for. $1.29/lb!!!

So my question is.. Why is local food SO much more expensive? I've noticed we easily spend $30-$40 whenever we go to the farmer's market and end up with a small bag of produce. I love doing everything I can being "green" but this is just ridiculous. If something is grown close by and doesn't have to refrigerated/flown in by plane/driven for hundreds of miles to reach my local grocery store, shouldn't it also be cheaper?
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Old 08-20-2008, 10:33 AM
Location: Venice Florida
1,381 posts, read 5,006,815 times
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I think the issue that you're seeing is related to yield/acre. Many of the large farms do what they need to do to create a high yield.
Smaller local farmers will lose more crop to insects, and mammals.
True organic farms may have yields that are 30% of a large commercial farm.
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Old 08-20-2008, 11:07 AM
Location: The beautiful Rogue Valley, Oregon
6,412 posts, read 13,948,379 times
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Local produce is often an heirloom variety, usually picked very close to ripe, so it has shorter shelf life, so more of it gets thrown out. The stuff in grocery stores is usually a variety hybridized (or engineered) for early picking, cold shipping and storage and long shelf life.
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Old 08-20-2008, 11:38 AM
Location: Pacific Northwest
1,077 posts, read 3,717,087 times
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Probably the same concept as the huge stores .. Costco, Super Stores, Save-On, etc, compared to the smaller stores.You will save money, but have more knowlege and control of where and how your produce was grown from the local markets.The small farmer can't afford to sell for as little as the huge conglomerates.
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Old 08-20-2008, 11:41 AM
Location: Papillion
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Much like the difference between handcrafted and mass manufactured... both end products might look the same, but cost (and hopefully quality) is dramatically different.
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Old 08-20-2008, 12:22 PM
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it is worth bearing in mind that fewer of your tax dollars are going towards propping up the local welfare system and less of your cash is leaving the country.
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Old 08-20-2008, 02:13 PM
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As a small producer selling at my local farmer's market, with seasonal vegetables and lamb, my costs per unit are significantly higher than large volume producers.

My alfalfa yield per acre, for example, is 1/3 ... in a good year ... that of a highly chemically enhanced producer's yield. But I've got healthy biologically active soil while all they have is dirt as a growth medium for their next crop. There's substantially more available nutrition per bale or lb in my product, complete with micronutrients which have been depleted from the dirt in the volume commercial producer's fields. I can raise healthier livestock on my alfalfa without the need for routine preventative meds to control disease, because their immune systems work as nature had intended.

Everything we do is sustainable, organic, and natural agriculture. The varieties of tomatoes we raise are heirloom, full of real flavor, and vine ripened. Our lamb is naturally raised, free ranged, and never fed grains or given hormones to speed up growth, never enclosed in a feedlot to put on finishing weight; the varieties we specialize in are "meat" breeds, which have a much larger loin (NZ lamb, what a joke with "lollipop" sized lamb chops), less fat, and are significantly better tasting than the bulk processed competition.

All of this is labor and capital intensive to bring to market a product that has no comparison to the commercial varieties. If you value these aspects of what you're eating and feeding your family, then the cost to you is worth the price.

If your primary concern is all about is price/pound, then shop your supermarket and support the big industrial producers, many of them offshore using labor that is a fraction of the cost of ours on land that pays little or no taxes and insurance compared to our fixed costs here. Plus, they use a lot of production chemicals, insecticides, herbicides, and other nerve toxins to enhance their production which have been banned in the USA.

IMO, the long term health aspects of removing a lot of the hormones and chemicals in your diet, plus receiving food value that is nutrionally healthier far outweigh the increased up front cost of the products. It's your choice ... we made ours by purchasing a farm/ranch setup and we can justify raising most of our own food with enough left over (in a good year) to sell to others. If we do nothing more than have our own supply, then we've met our personal goals.

Consider, too, that we both work off the farm to support our farming habit. So our time value at the market is clearly defined for us in $/hour. We can only haul in so much in the allocated time to set up our shelter, and the market only lasts for a few hours. We've got to recover that income and expenses, plus pay the market fees, or we might as well just stay at our jobs with an assured income.
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Old 08-20-2008, 02:31 PM
Location: Pacific Northwest
1,077 posts, read 3,717,087 times
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Thanks for the great post sunsprit, and contributing to keeping us alive and healthy!

We really appreciate that there are people out there such as yourselves who possess such great values and high standards.
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Old 08-20-2008, 11:46 PM
Location: Somewhere out there
17,985 posts, read 19,554,484 times
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around me farmers sell directly at their farms so they don't "set up" at farmer's markets keeping their over head down & prices lower. This summer the farmer we always buy bushels of sweet corn from put his corn in our local grocery store for $3.75 per dozen. Or I could drive up the road 2.5 miles to his house and pay $3.00 per dozen. If I only wanted a dozen I would pay at the store but I buy in quanity so I drove to his house. The local stores have to make money off the local produce too so prices go up.

Still I would rather pay extra to a local farmer & local store than hand it on over at a chain store.
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Old 08-21-2008, 05:25 AM
Location: Loudoun County, VA
1,148 posts, read 3,228,218 times
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Thanks guys, that explains it. Sunsprit, thanks for the great post. I guess my point was that with the "green movement" people are encouraged to buy local foods. I've read in many places about supporting local farmers, how you usually, as a consumer, end up saving money as well. But that is definitely not true. You must understand that $11.90/lb for lamb is a stretch for many of our budgets. So, I think I'll have to stick around growing my own veggies and buying at the grocery store instead for now.
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