It’s 11 a.m. and so far I’ve already talked to two different people who told me that grocery shopping was on their to-do list today. Naturally, my question was “Oh, where are you shopping today?” One response was “Martin’s” (as in Giant Eagle), and the other was “Sam’s Club”. I never fail to get disheartened when people tell me that they are frequenting a large grocery store. I get especially disheartened when I’m actually on my way to visit our local farmer’s market, where there is a bounty of fresh baked breads, gleaming produce, fragrant cheeses and humanely-raised sustainable local meat – put there early this morning by people who work sunup to sundown carefully planting, watering, feeding, kneading, and churning just to bring you and your family the very best food possible.
Let’s forget about GMOs and processed foods for a bit and talk about why anyone would choose a large, fluorescent-lit, impersonal grocery store over a welcoming, friendly farmer’s market. These are the excuses I hear the most, and why each of them is – excuse my French – complete bullcrap.
1) I don’t have the time to shop local. It’s so easy to get in and get out of the grocery store!
Really? I know we are all busy. No doubt. Between work, home, and the role of mommy or daddy, we’re tired. I get it. Trust me, my little one is one of the squirmiest, most impatient kids you’ll find. And homesteading and a 40-hour a week job to boot keeps me pretty darn busy. I don’t know about you, but my kid isn’t exactly content to be still in the basket of the grocery store cart. If I have to end up at a grocery store (and mine is the co-op 40 minutes away, unless we are in a dire emergency for baby wipes , and then Martin’s has to cut it), I want to be in and out in as little time possible, because my little guy is constantly pulling at everything on the shelves, trying to get out of the cart, or on the verge of a meltdown because I’ve made him sit still for an extended period of time. Even then, my trip to the store ALWAYS takes at least 45 minutes. Let’s compare this with the farmer’s market. Saturdays are usually THE day for markets. Picture your kid strolling with you through the tents, in awe of the fresh food in front of him or her. There are local farmers at every station, ready and willing to say good morning to your little one, explain how they grew that tomato, or even provide a small sample of local, freshly-cooked bacon. My C is star-struck at the farmer’s market. Bright colors, yummy smells, lots to see everywhere. The market is a very pleasant trip for us. Aside from that, the market is such an amazing learning moment for you and your child! What better place for them to learn where their food comes from, pick out something fresh to help you cook for dinner, or meet and talk with their local farmer who grows their food?! What’s a better option – buying a can of cherry pie filling at the store, or having your little one handpick a pint of sweet cherries at the market, hearing how those cherries were picked off of a big tree a couple days ago, watching your little one carefully put them in the bag, then going home and spending the rest of the morning as a mommy-daughter or mommy-son date making a homemade pie? Which one leaves more of a positive impression on your child? Which one makes you feel like a better parent? Why anyone wouldn’t take advantage of Saturday morning quality time with their kiddos at such a wonderful place is beyond my comprehension. So sure, the choice is yours. Dread going to the grocery store with your little ones in tow, or enjoy your morning at the market as a family outing.
2) Local food is too expensive!
While I realize that local and organic are two different things, this excuse is applied to either. Folks say that organic food is too expensive too. Luckily for us as local consumers, most of your market food, while it may not be certified organic, is chemical-free – simply because the clientele of the market demands that. In the words of Joel Salatin, “If you think organic food is expensive, have you priced cancer lately?” Unlike GMOs (which while us real foodies are pretty well convinced they have some kind of link to cancer, it has not been “proven” yet), chemical pesticides and herbicides DO contribute to cancers and other degenerative diseases. The antibiotics and hormones in meat are partially responsible for the maladies today of early puberty onset and antibiotic resistance. Do you really want to feed your little one that stuff? I sure don’t. And if you think it simply washes off, you’re sadly mistaken. And the reality is that local food really ISN’T more expensive than the grocery store. For example, I got a half gallon of locally grown, chemical-free sweet cherries at the market this morning. My cost? $7. You can get a half gallon of conventional (NOT organic) cherries at the grocery store for $6.99. Wouldn’t you rather pay one cent more and get cherries without pesticide on the side? Also keep in mind that when you shop local, that ENTIRE $7 goes to your FARMER. That ENTIRE $7 stays in the LOCAL ECONOMY. Most of that $7 will probably be SPENT in the local economy. Your $6.99 at the grocery store? Some of it may go to the grower – who might be in California, but is more likely in Mexico. The majority goes to the CEO of a large grocery chain. There is a saying I love: “Eat local, feed a farmer.” So true. Every dollar you spend is your vote on how you want the world to be for your children. Chew on that.
3) But I can just get everything in one place at the grocery store!
Once again – really? Because I don’t think there has EVER been a time I went to Wal-Mart (ok, so it’s probably been about five years since I’ve even stepped foot inside a Wal-Mart) or Martin’s when I didn’t have SOMETHING lingering on my list and I’ve had to chalk it up “Oh well, I’ll buy it at another place another day.” Most grocery stores do not carry an abundance of nutritious food to begin with. I’m lucky that we frequent a good food co-op about once a month for the few things that I can’t get from local farmers (sugar, dry goods, baby food snacks) and I completely trust the food they have stocked as wholesome and nutritious for my family. My co-op also sources local as much as possible – double win. Locally, we have farmers – all within five miles of our home – that provide all of our meat and eggs. FIVE MILES. FIVE. Is it really that difficult to drive a couple of miles up the road, buy your meat in bulk from someone you know and trust, allow your child to see the farm where his food is coming from, and then take it home and put it in the freezer? Nope. Know your farmer, people. He’s right in your backyard, and he can give you better food than you will ever get at the store.
We all have a responsibility. You have a responsibility to yourself, your children, your community, your country, and your world (nudge, nudge, former 4-Hers, sounds familiar eh?). Your responsibility is to make your family healthy, and leave a positive impact on those around you. That’s why you were put on this earth. If you’re not already, do your part. Give your money to the farmers who need it and who care enough about YOUR family to grow nutritious food for you. Keep your dollars in the local economy. Teach your children where their food comes from. Teach them that shopping for food is fun and fulfilling. Teach them to do their part too.
Buy local. Be local.