Buying Local (Can you Afford it?)

Buying Local (Can you Afford it?)
by msabaye

All year long, I look forward to summer because I don't like these harsh winters, and because I get a chance to buy fresh, crisp, reasonably sized, sometimes deformed, local fruit and vegetables. Every summer I end up switching between local and the supermarket. The reason? The price.

Buying local turns out to be quite expensive. At first it seems counter intuitive: the middle man is cut; so produce has to be cheaper. Last week, on my way to an appointment, I notice a produce stand in a parking lot. I got curious and noticed a young man selling organically grown fruits (only melons) and vegetables at a parking lot in 40 degrees temperature.

I bought a few things and chatted with him. I told him that I wanted to support local growers, but I often couldn't afford it. He told me that local food, and in his case organic local produce, is grown on small pieces of land by individual farmers whose work, unlike large business agricultural companies, is not subsidized by the government. The process is very labour intensive and is completely independent.

It seems to me that only rich people can afford local/organic food (I bought a small basket of beans for $5). When I mentioned this to the young farmer who sold his own products, he agreed and added that the government should subsidize food instead of agriculture so that people can have access to good, healthy food. He mentioned that thirty years ago, people spent about %40 of their income on food. Today, they spend around %5. Why should this be the case?

We continued talking, and I learned a lot. I still face the same dilemma when shopping: buying less for more money is always a challenge. But now I understand some of the complications and do try harder to buy better produce and support individual growers.   


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