Updated: Sep 20, 2019
I grew up in Northern New Jersey, which is much more rural than people who haven’t been there would imagine it to be. As kids, we grew up with no shortage of wildlife in our yards and plenty of woods to play around in. We also grew up going to farm stands, visiting hobby farms, picking apples and berries, and going to farmer’s markets. My mother loves fresh food and cooking with fresh foods, and I’ve always considered it a staple of spring, summer, and fall to get fresh produce whenever possible. One of the difficulties of winter was the return to the small-step- above-completely-tasteless fruits and veggies, usually grown on the other side of the world, often in a countries without any regulations in place regarding pesticides and chemical usage in general on their crops. We always had some sort of garden, even if it was just a few tomato plants. As an adult, I’ve realized I took these things for granted. I didn’t realize how many people don’t pay much attention to any of this and just buy whatever fruits and veggies they like at the grocery store year round, usually citing cost and time as the main deciding factors for what kind of food they buy. I found that many folks believe eating locally is too unaffordable to even look into. Although in some instances that may be true, and you may end up coming home from a farmer’s market with an unplanned, $20 pie from time to time, overall eating locally is often cheaper, better for the environment, your body, and better for local economies.
Above is a picture of a combination of apples, tomatoes from our garden, and veggies from the crop share Michele and I joined this year. This is what about $20-25 gets you locally. As long as you are buying what’s in season, everything here is comparable or cheaper than what’s at a grocery store. The crop share we joined is a local farm in Cortland, New York, Shared Roots Farm, and everything is organic. We pick up our share biweekly, and cost us about $220 for the season, which runs from the beginning of April-October. This works out to about $9 a week for a few pounds of 6-8 different items. If this seems like too much, you can exchange some labor on the farm for a share instead. Can’t do that either? Binghamton Food Rescue offers free fruits and veggies in various locations throughout the city, often leftover from these same farm shares. We picked the apples ourselves from a local orchard, Lone Maple Farms, right up the street from us, and they cost .49 cents per pound. We got 24 lbs for $12. Apples at the grocery store are often quadruple that price on sale and when they’re in season. The tomatoes are from our garden, which were grown from heirloom seeds I bought in a pack of about 30 other different vegetable seeds that will easily last me a few more years. The seeds cost about $20 for hundreds of them. This year was my second attempt at a garden, and I added some organic fertilizers and tried to be a bit more scientific than the year before. Last year, I cleared a few small patches and threw some seeds in the ground and ended up with more tomatoes, zucchinis, green beans, and snow peas than I knew what to do with. Other than daily watering, there was maybe a few hours every week or two worth of weeding and whatnot, which is probably about the amount of time you’d spend driving to the store and back anyway.
Additionally, by eating locally, you are helping reduce carbon emissions created by shipping foods all over the world and getting a better, cleaner product. As with most products today, produce that is cheaper at the grocery store is often the result of laxed or nonexistent regulations in other countries and poverty wages. Maybe this doesn’t bother you very much with other products, but shouldn’t it bother you a bit with what you put in your body. All produce has a country of origin sticker right on the label. Find what that country is and do some quick Googling if you want to find out some of the horrifying methods used there. (Wait until I finish an upcoming article about farmed-fish and tilapia, if you really want your stomach to turn). You are keeping money in the local economy, helping small-scale farmers feed their families, rather than helping a large corporation please their shareholders, or supporting foreign economies.
Everything in that photo is fresher, organic, cheaper, and just plain old better tasting than what you can get at a grocery store. Buying local produce, having even a small garden, and hunting large mammals for protein is a wonderful way to reduce your environmental impact and put cleaner foods into your body. I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but if it is, give it a try. See how much produce and other food you can get locally; your body, wallet, the environment, and a local farmer will thank you.