Did you know the average product at your supermarket has traveled 1,500 miles just to get on that shelf? That's a lot of fossil fuels. Not to mention all the packaging needed to keep that that banana free of blemishes and bruises when it bumps along in the back of that tractor-trailer or ship's cargo hold.
I've been feeling increasingly dissatisfied with the products that I buy at the local Wal-Mart and HEB. Not only has the quality been lousy but I also have issues with how chains like Wal-Mart keep prices artificially low.
D and I took the leap and we have begun participating in a weekly vegetable CSA (community supported agriculture) and a monthly grass-fed beef subscription program. Our first veggie pickup from Johnson's Backyard Garden is September 1 and our first beef pickup from Wild Type Ranch is September 9. I'm planning on posting pictures and updates discussing what we're getting and how we like it.
A CSA is a farm that is funded by a group of community members. Members pay an advance fee in exchange for a weekly assortment of farm fresh produce or other farm products. Basically, we enter into an agreement pay a portion of the farmer's wages and cost of production and, in return, we receive a weekly share of whatever the farmer has produced that week.
Our particular farm produces mainly vegetables but they also contract with other local farms to provide fruit, nuts, and eggs in our weekly box. The beef program is similar in that we agree to pay for a monthly portion of beef. The beef is also rounded out with other seasonal products our farmer has whether it's eggs, sausage, veal, etc.
The great thing about these programs is that we are spending a large portion of our food dollars to obtain fresh, seasonal food and supporting local family farmers while doing it. It's something that I feel good about. I'm taking my dollars away from lousy Wal-Mart stuff and I'm purchasing real food.
A big challenge, particularly with the produce, is that we don't get to pick what we get every week. We get the best of what's growing right now. This is tough since I'm used to going to the supermarket and getting tomatoes in December or asparagus in October. It will be interesting especially as we enter the fall and winter. D and I have never eaten a lot of cabbage or cauliflower but we plan on learning.
Another challenge is the budget. We've committed 65% of our food budget to the programs. That leaves 35% left over to buy everything else. I think we will definitely struggle at first but I'm looking forward to the challenge. I just need to remind myself that our money is going towards real, fresh, healthy food. Sure, I might be paying a little more for this tomato but, not only does it taste better, it's got a higher nutritive value and less fossil fuels were used to get it to my table. Plus, the money I'm spending is being used to pay a real farmer a sustainable wage.
If you are at all interested in buying locally produced food in your area, check out: