Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Turning over a new, organically grown, leaf

I am a hypocrite when it comes to food. When I go to the grocery store, I try very hard to choose natural and organic foods. I would shop at the co-op, but I like meat too much, and I'm not a wealthy entrepreneur. I usually go to the Fellini Kroger, and I stick pretty well to the good advice that, if you want to eat fresher food, stay near the perimeter of the grocery store. I try to buy organic, but most of the time I can't justify spending $1.50 on an organic apple when there's one for 25 cents next to it. I do my best, though, and return home fairly happy with my healthy and environmentally conscious decisions.

And then my phone rings.

"Hi, B. Want to go to *enter Mexican restaurant name here* and drink sugary margaritas, eat non-free range meats, and queso that turns to plastic in your arteries."

"Yes. 100 times, YES!" I say.

It is hard (for me) to care about promoting organic practices while at the same time not wanting to be dietarily staunch. It is hard (for me) to only eat organic food when you greatly enjoy going out to eat. 

But most people accept this tension without giving it a second thought. For example, my grandmother has a garden and most always bakes and cooks from scratch. She also keeps Little Debbie's Oatmeal Cream Pies for my grandfather, and we all know Little Debbie don't bake from scratch. My grandfather always says things like, "Don't worry so much about what you eat. I'm still alive and I've eaten whatever I've wanted all my life." It's true. He's an incredibly healthy older man.

To me, it's really overwhelming, and even a moral dilemma, thoughts like: I am against inhumane treatment of animals, but I don't know where the meat I'm eating has come from. Or, I support farmers, but I rarely buy from farmer's markets.

And, the point.

The Farmer's Market is about to start, I think in about a week and a half. A light bulb went on when I was perusing the preview last weekend in Market Square. Could I commit to only buying my groceries from the Farmer's Market this spring and summer?

I know this idea isn't novel to the man in his "Life is Good" t-shirt, shamefully shaking his head at my words, but it would drastically alter my life style. For one, I would actually have to cook and prepare food more than once every two weeks. I'd also have to go grocery shopping there at least once, maybe twice, a week as opposed to my once, maybe twice, a month routine.

Anyway, I'm mulling the idea over, and am coming up with a lot of questions besides "Will I starve to death?" I've been to the Farmer's Market a bunch, but now that I think about it, I don't know everything they offer. Is there someone there who sells milk? What if I want to bake something and need more ingredients? Will I go broke?

At the very least, it's something exciting to consider and ponder over. I'll let you know what happens. In the end, I definitely commit to kicking up my Farmer's Market attendance a few notches this coming season. Maybe you will, too?


Anonymous said...

I think you should do this, B. What a nice idea. I think you would also save a lot of money. More food at home always leads to spending less money going out.

I really need to make it a priority to get to the farmer's market more often this summer, too. mmmm fresh produce.

The Modern Gal said...

Have you thought about participating in any of the local CSAs? I think there are maybe two or three area farms that offer CSA shares.

It's a great idea, although there are some weekends when the food offerings at the Market are sparse and far outnumbered by the crafts and dog treat vendors, so yes, if you try to ONLY eat off the Farmer's Market offerings you could be in trouble. Maybe approach it in a "if I can buy it at the Farmer's Market I will" kind of way and then supplement that as needed from other places. You'll be able to guarantee some fresh greens and tomatoes and fresh bread pretty much every week. There's also usually someone selling local meats (although that can be expensive).

However you do it, the attitude is good: buying local goods supports the local economy and you can learn more about where your food comes from by talking to the vendors.

Anonymous said...

Also I am always one of those people who never has any cash, just my debit card.

Isn't this neat:

The Market Square Farmers’ Market now accepts EBT/SNAP benefits! Come to the information booth on any market day to swipe your EBT card to receive tokens to spend with eligible vendors. EBT tokens can be used on any food not to be consumed on site, as well as any food producing plants.

Only have a debit card? Come to the information booth on any market day to swipe your debit card for Market Money tokens in $5 denominations. Market Money is our own currency and can be spent with any vendor just like cash. Vendors will give change back, or you can save them for a future market. They can also be used like gift certificates.

Andrea said...

My husband and I go to Earth Fare a lot. He has special dietary needs and we can find a wide variety of healthy and organic food at Earth Fare. It's a little more expensive than Food City, but not by that much. And the quality of the food is much better. Maybe you could do some shopping there for things you can't find at the Farmer's Market.

Anonymous said...

A CSA subscription is a great idea, if you are willing to make the commitment. You might want to split a share with someone, or at least only sign up for a half share. You have to be ready to deal with loads of greens in the spring and learn to love beets. There are 5 farms delivering CSA shares to the Market Square Farmers' Market:
Greenfingers Farm
A Place of the Heart Farm
Colvin Family Farm
Musick Mountain Farm

But then you are committed to making it work.
As a modern person, it is highly unlikely you could buy all your groceries at any producer-only farmers' market. The obvious salt & pepper, vinegars, olive oil, rice and so on aren't grown around these parts. Cruze Farm is the only local dairy that sells directly (unless you count Mayfield) and very infrequently at markets, and then only milk & buttermilk (no butter or cream).

Eating locally can be a real commitment, but one I think is totally worth it. You can consider it a challenge: one entirely local meal a week, especially in peak season, or one local ingredient in every meal. And then you can blog about it...

Anonymous said...

And if you have to eat out, go to Veg-O-Rama, which uses as many local ingredients in their dishes as possible.

Anonymous said...

Make that 6 farms. Mountain Meadows Farm has also started a CSA program this season.

Lo said...

i would second anonymous on this. start small. (but don't look at my life as an example)

after working on a csa for a spring season, i would definitely suggest it as a way to get involved with the growing season, but keep in mind that you don't always get to choose what you want to eat, and you do assume a risk that the farmer transfers to you after you "buy in." that said, you're more intimately connected to the growing season than just visiting a farmers market every week.

Athomp said...

Free-range animals are nice because it allows the food to get excercise, but I would focus more on what kind of feed the animal has.

For example, there are a lot of "free-range" animals who still live primarily indoors because they are raised that way, but have the option to go outside. In most cases, they don't leave their coop because that's where they were raised and their instinct is to do what they know.

98% of all farms, a lot of free range also, use corn instead of grass to feed their animals. Corn feed is one of the single biggest contributors to change in the human diet in the last 200 years. Cows were NOT meant to eat the food and it has caused all sorts of dietary issues from eating beef.

Do a little Google search on corn feed versus grass fed and you'll see.

That said, finding restaurants or even grocery stores who serve 'grass fed' beef is incredibly difficult. First of all, most grocery stores don't come out and say it (all Krogers and Food City's have corn fed beef, for example). Only Earthfare has had any from what I've seen. It is the "local" product they sell.

There is a silver lining though. Sapphire's Cheeseburger is bought from a farm that uses grass fed, free-range beef. Yay ;)

ps don't fret, we're all hypocrites. Who's going to give up fun with friends to boycott a restaurant's buying practices. In most cases, it isn't their fault. It's the fault of our distributors and the fault of the farmers for selling these meats at incredibly high rates versus the bad stuff.

Unknown said...

To echo others, CSAs are helpful. My wife and I had a half share last year, and it was more than enough for us. This year a friend of ours is experimenting with starting a CSA, so we're buying directly from her.

I didn't see anyone mention it, but the if you get a membership at the coop, you get a percentage off your purchase, plus a little extra off of any locally produced items. You can also buy in bulk, so you can increase your savings that way. And things are on sale for the whole month. Just like shopping anywhere else, if you plan a little, you can get some good deals.

Also, sign up for Earth Fare's emails. They often have coupons for free stuff with purchase.

And don't think you have to do everything at once. Also to echo others, start small. Buy a few items organically or locally. Or do one meal a week. Whatever.

benjamin said...

B, I have a movie recommendation for you: No Impact Man.

It is VERY thought provoking, especially on the matter of where your food comes from.

And your grandfather didn't have to worry about most of the problems with our current food systems when he was younger that we do now.