Monday, May 28, 2007

Outbid by the rich

I was going to write about my plan for reducing my emissions today, but this is on my mind so I want to talk about it. The issue in question is the availability of clean, wholesome food, and access to it. The reason I’m concerned is because it is becoming harder and harder for the poor and even the middle class to get access to decent food. The ingredients for salad cost upwards of five dollars in almost all places, more in some and of course it varies by the season. Most salads will last the average family one, maybe two meals. You can buy a month’s worth of moon pies, for example, for the price of one salad. It is currently much cheaper in this country to eat a lot of processed foods rather than wholesome fruits and veggies, and never mind whole grains! Whole wheat flour is three times as much as white flour here, and a finished loaf has the same differential. When you’re on a tight budget, that stings. I know first hand about budgetary pressures. I have been poor most of my life, and while I eat healthy I often have to buy canned fruit from the supermarket rather than fresh fruit at the farmer’s market because I just don’t have the extra money.
This came to the front of my mind because of an issue that has recently occurred here. Now, I want to say up front that I don’t blame the farmers and don’t hold any grudges. They did what they had to do to survive. Goddess knows it’s hard enough for farmers to survive these days. Its society and those with money to whom my anger –and I am genuinely angry –is directed.
Over the last couple of years a small group of local farmers has started using natural, organic practices. Most of them aren’t certified because they can’t afford it, but I know these folks and what they use. They were looking for a market for their products, so they started coming to the local farmer’s market near my house on Saturday. In the afternoons they’d take the leftover to the artist’s market at the local artist collective. Here was natural, organic, local produce available for the first time in this area. Furthermore, while it was more expensive than the conventional produce, it wasn’t unreasonably so. You could get produce, herbs, free-range eggs, even natural pasture-raised meat and chicken if you pre-ordered. And local organic honey to boot. The people in this area aren’t very well off, and many of them are truly poor, but a lot of them were suddenly able to get fresh organic produce for the first time in their lives. And as for my fellow artists at the collective, we were ecstatic. We know the importance of local food and we had all been trying to find a source of local food, especially organic local food. And though we aren’t well off either, we still managed to buy from them. Within weeks they had a devoted customer base at both locations.
And then it all came crashing down when the seasonal farmer’s market over on the rich end of town opened. The group went over there the first Saturday to try their luck. Keep in mind this other market is more than 30 miles from where I live. This is the land of gated communities and country clubs we’re talking about. Doctor’s, lawyers, politicians, and executives live there. The cheapest house I’ve ever seen advertised in this area was a cool quarter of million dollars. Most of the houses there are considerably more expensive. The rich folk ate up the idea of fresh, local, organic produce. Of course they want to feed it to their families. Who wouldn’t, in the age of melamine and such? The farmer’s group has sold out there every week. Furthermore, the people there are willing the pay much, much more than what we can afford –several times as much, in fact. So, there won’t be any more local organic produce for the poor and the artists here for a while.
We’ve been outbid by the rich.

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Blogger e4 said...

This reminded me of an article by Michael Pollan:

The only suggestion I can think of is to band together and grow your own - Container gardening or a shared community garden (Square Foot Gardening) if space is an issue.

Tomatoes and carrots and lettuce grow just the same whether prices are low or high, whether the economy is good or bad. It removes price from the equation and eliminates one more dependency.

5/29/2007 9:25 AM  
Anonymous Mimi said...

You should contact the people in charge of the local farmer's market to see if they would be willing to organize a second market on another day. I am fortunate to live in a resort town with it's fair share of affluent people too. We have farmer's markets going somewhere in town 6 days per week. If the group who organizes your farmer's see a need, they may be willing to open up another market on your side of town. Remember: The farmers get to take home more of the profits from a farmer's market than they would get selling their products to a regular grocery store. It might be worth it for them!

Good luck,

5/29/2007 11:37 AM  
Blogger RAS said...

e4, I myself do grow a lot of my own food, but not all. And a lot of these people aren't in a situation where they could grow their own.

mimi -thanks for the advice.

This is a sad situation all around.

5/30/2007 8:29 PM  

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