No John Deere Here.

Recently we took a day trip up to the farm that grows all our CSA vegetables.  The folks who run our CSA organized a bus ride up there enabling us to spend a few hours with the farmer.  He filled us in on his family farm and their transition over to organic farming and what that means.  Apparently even the land use of closely neighboring farms and the pesticides they use affects organic certification.  It ruled to hear how excited he was about providing vegetables for CSAs and how that improved his livelihood and farming.

{More food system thoughts are at the end of the post, if you're also curious about the hows and whys of the systems that get our food to us.

I know this is supposed to be a sustainable style type of blog and that farm day was probably a good opportunity to douse myself in gingham and pose on defunct tractors but my priorities were being able to navigate the farm comfortably so I threw on (an American Apparel) t-shirt, some loose pants from a resale shop and a pair or sweatshop faux-Keds.  Come on.  If you've been here before, you're not looking for editorial style photos, am I right?

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Here I am, keeping a watchful eye on our lettuces and potatoes:
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One of the many greenhouses used to start vegetables and herbs.
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Herbs!  You can just make out the signs down the row.

I continue to be infatuated by our food systems, how much we expect to pay for food and what that means.  For those of us with disposable income, why is it that we consider some food "too expensive" and expect our food system to have cut-rate prices instead of paying farmers decently for the work that goes into growing our food?  I'm often struck by how much we need (good) food and how little we're willing to pay for it...or how little we're willing to go through to get it, relative to the money and time we spend elsewhere in our lives.  Somewhere along the way we were promised fast and cheap food and we continue to expect that.

So much of this is cosmology (what the gov't subsidizes, what's available in our shops, what we are used to eating or considering "good") and so much of it is related to socioeconomic happenstance (food deserts, the time it takes to participate in CSAs, fast food ingredients being subsidized making fast food "affordable").  If we're considering our other values, there's also the environmental ramifications of food if not grown responsibly - soy often comes up under this topic although the bulk of soy isn't grown for us to eat but for the agriculture industry.  (Not that there isn't environmental impact with plants; just pointing out that the layers of information we get are often murky.)  The lists go on; can you think of anything I've left off? 

I'm by no means a perfect food shopper, but I'm trying to understand our complex food systems and working towards putting what I learn into practice. Things like visiting the farm firsthand help.  The next time I'm faced with an organic vs conventional or local vs national/international choice and how much I want to spend, thinking about the farm will probably help realign my values.

What do you think about when you shop for food?  What's most important to you?


  1. I live in Minneapolis, and we have tons of food co-ops and farmers markets here, which is lucky. Several years ago I stopped shopping the big grocery stores and decided that if I CAN afford to buy organic and local, then I am OBLIGATED to do so, in order to vote with my money and help to create the demand for these kinds of foods. I try not to be an asshole about it, I just want everyone to think about it a little bit more and do their best. And I try to support restaurants that are doing farm-to-table stuff or growing their own veggies in little urban gardens.

  2. Great post. It makes me want to take part in a CSA, but the farmers market is super convenient for me. With vegetables especially I try to be as local as possible. Peppers from Holland and Canada drive me nuts. Do we not grow peppers here in the United States? How is it cheaper to ship them across the Atlantic ocean than it is to make some space in a field somewhere? I buy most veggies from the farmers market of the food coop, sometimes I'll get an onion or some potatoes from the super market, but it often makes me feel bad.
    When I was living in Chicago on just my income and food stamps, organic and local weren't always options, but now that I have some extra money they are. Food (other than rent) is what I spend the most money on. I think that is a good way to live.

  3. We do the CSA thing as well. And living in the bay area it's relatively easy to shop local, organic, year round. We visit farmers markets and such and we don't usually eat at restaurants. I curious as to how much that will change when we move east...

  4. Several years ago, we made a decision to pay off our mortgage and began to watch our pennies very closely. Gradually, we discovered that if we were more willing to cook at home from very basic supplies that we could dramatically reduce our grocery bill. Little by little, we quit patronizing our local grocery store. My husband planted a garden and learned to can and freeze our produce. He catches local fish. And we keep pigeons...and have eaten the eggs that come from our birds. We try to be very aware of our food sources. I believe that the less expensive the food, the better it is for you. Combine rice and beans, or potatoes and milk and you have complete proteins. I see it as the Creator looking out for the poor people.

    How many people support this one farmer?

  5. I wish we did a CSA this year. We went grocery shopping tonight and I tried to buy all organic/local and spent so much! With Elinor eating now I want to make sure she is getting the best. Also everything does taste so much better and it does feel better to support local


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