Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Challenge Sparks Conversation

Here we are at day four of  the

and I wanted to see how many non organic foods could be economically replaced by budget shopping. There is only one grocery store in the town near me and their organic section is pretty small.

I still managed to come away with this much discounted food. ~

Organic bananas were cheaper per pound than regular and I bought an extra bunch of 1/2 price ones that were a bit over ripe.  They'll get mashed and frozen for muffins and banana bread.  The chocolate is for a recipe I'm trying tomorrow.  Completely healthy hard chocolate coating for ice cream anyone?  Oh, yeah!  There were no bad ones in the raspberries.  The apples will get used in cooking.  The salad field greens are still ahead of the best before date, as was the sour cream.  The Oka cheese is a gourmet brand from Quebec and usually sells for about $9.  The milk has a while before the best before date but I may have to freeze one of the litres if I think it's going to go off.  All of this was marked to half price.

The potatoes were also half price and there wasn't a bad one in the bag. ~

The cashier that was checking me through asked why I was buying it all.  I explained what I was doing and she started talking.

Cashier:  You know nothing is really organic if it has contaminated ground water flowing to it and air pollution falling on it.
Me:  I know.  I'm avoiding all the extra chemicals being dumped on it.
Cashier:  We have a garden and our own apple trees and don't use any chemicals.  Everything grows just fine and the apples are perfect.
Me:  You don't get worms in the apples.
Cashier:  Nope and I'd rather cut a worm out than eat all that junk.
Me:  That's how I feel about having my own chickens for eggs.
Cashier (perking right up):  I'd give anything to have chickens!  Maybe I will get some.  Looks like you did pretty well in here today!

She's smiling and I'm smiling.  We connected and we both felt good about it.

On to the farmers market and this guy that I usually buy my pickling cucumbers from.  I asked if I could take his picture and, other than being worried that his shirt was dirty, he was fine with it. ~

If you think he looks a little confused in this shot, it's because he can't believe I'm asking questions about what it is like to be an independent farmer today.  I tell him what I am writing about and let him know he is free to not answer any question that makes him uncomfortable.  

Me:  Do you work off the farm as well?
Farmer:  Up until five years ago I did.  Now, I can't keep it all up.  I've been married 42 years and my wife has had a full time job every one of those years.  We're tired.
Me:  So you have been subsidizing the farm with your other incomes.
Farmer:  Uh, yeah.  My son wants to take over the farm and I want him to but I can get a quarter million for the land and retire.  He says he'll buy it but I told him he'd never be able to make the payments and earn a living.  There's not enough profit.
Me:  You aren't an organic farm, so what's the advantage to someone buying from you over a grocery store?
Farmer:  Hmmm.  It's fresher; picked that day.  We don't use many chemicals.  They cost too much to use anyway.
Me:  You use far fewer chemicals than a big operation would?  Interesting.
Farmer:  For example, we pick our apples by hand or shake them out of the tree.  Big growers spray them with stuff that makes the stems weak and they fall off on their own.  
Me:  What!!!
Farmer:  It's like Viagra makes some things stiffer.  This stuff makes them softer.  (chuckles)
Me:  If running a small farm doesn't pay, why do you do it?

(Oh no, he's choking up!)

Farmer:  You're going to make me cry.  My dad ran this farm and his father ran it before him.  It's what we do and I love it!

We talked a bit more and discussed how difficult it is for young families to choose to buy from local farmers and pay more. 

Farmer:  I really get that and don't know how they handle food prices today with little kids.  Ordering a quantity will always get them a better deal.  

Right then, a little girl asked her mom to buy some of the farmer's raspberries.  Her mom said they should wait and get the big package from Costco.  The little girl insisted and got her pint of local raspberries.

Farmer:  We've farmed in our area for so long, we have plenty of regular customers.  Still, my wife reads the obituaries and says, "We lost another customer.  So and so died".  Kind of ghoulish of her.  

Me:  I guess she knows the next generation aren't going to be buying from you.

He nods.

Or, maybe that little girl will stick to her guns, his son will get to stay on the farm and the apples will continue to get picked by hand.

And what did I eat today?

Baked yams bought from a lovely teenage girl at the market, a pork chop raised without hormones or antibiotics and fed vegetable grain and some of that organic salad that was on sale.

The pork chop was topped with delicious Niagara Wine Jelly and baked in a 375 degree oven with the yams that had been peeled and tossed in basil, olive oil, salt and pepper, for 20 mins. ~

Here's dinner! ~

The best part of all was that this food got me talking to and connecting with the people who grow it and handle it.  From the cashier to the farmer to me, we were all consciously thinking about our food and what it means to us.

More ripples? ~