So many folks are trying really hard to buy food grown locally. Good for you! The fresher most produce is, the more beneficial it is nutritionally. For those of you who are frustrated with high prices of locally-grown foods, here are a few things to keep in mind:
1. Growing food is demanding work! Most small-time farms have invested weeks (or months!) into your food before it reaches the Farmers’ Markets or roadside stands. Unlike commercial growers who supply grocery stores, the “little guys” do not receive government subsidies to offset their financial investment. Plus, many growers have picked produce and loaded trailers in the dark in order to bring their wares right to your community.
2. You can’t get more local than your back yard. Consider planting even a couple of tomato plants or some leafy greens for your own personal use this year. Because of the way it pollinates, sweet corn is often not productive in small batches, but many other fruits and veggies are. Don’t be afraid to give some of your favorites a try.
3. Consider u-pick options. There are many wonderful, family-owned u-pick farms all across the country. When you do the work yourself, you lower the grower’s mark-up price AND you gain a better appreciation for what goes into getting produce to farmers’ markets.
4. Explore bartering options. Perhaps you have a gardener in your neighborhood who could use a little help in exchange for home-grown goodies. Offer your services for weeding, watering, babysitting, hair-cutting, house-sitting, painting, mulching, leaf-raking or snow-shoveling in trade for some of their extras.
5. Remove the middle man. Don’t be afraid to talk to Farmers’ Market vendors to see if there is a time when you can go directly to their farm to buy surplus produce. Many crops need harvested more than once a week, and growers often sell these off-time harvests for less if you come get them mid-week. Not every vendor will want to do this for you, but many of them will.
6. You catch more flies with honey. My family and I have sold produce for more than seven years. I love having an abundance of homegrown goodies with which to be generous to our customers. However, if someone approaches us with a comment about how green beans are only 50 cents a pound at the grocery store, I will smile sweetly and tell them, “Happy Krogering”.