I have been into the local food thing for a few years now.
It feels good, but I have to wonder if my efforts are making a difference or if they are largely symbolic.
Is there a better way to go about it?
My thoughts take me to my garden this year. I had a huge garden, which unlike other years produced a small yield for the space/time spent.
Most years, I grow so much that I cannot eat it all nor do I have the time to cook what I can eat. I have tried to grow foods that stores longer as a result.
But I end up giving a lot away if I can. I never plan for the excess, so my donation effort is pretty random and not very efficent.
In recent years, I find that I am growing more flowers instead of food to avoid the excess. At least the bees are happy, which is kind of a big deal too.
This year however, the hot weather destroyed my Spring crops. The grass burried my smaller crops regardless of long hours weeding. And the late start of the garden left me with no yield for my sweet potatoes.
With that said, I discovered that even extremely split cabbage still tastes good and flowering arugula tastes great too, which I had figured it to be done for. So maybe my yield was a little better then I thought.
I did not do the farmers market with my sprouts and bake goods this year, so I found myself as a shopper instead of vendor.
As a shopper, I noticed that I found that my garden competed with the market vendors. Instead of buying their produce, I had my own in my garden (sort of).
I never thought about it until this year, but did having my own garden make sense on a local food movement level?
Would both I, and the vendors (and the local food movement) be better served if I did not grow a garden, but instead bought from a local farmer instead?
I don’t have the exact numbers, but a garden can be a costly endeavor. There is the community garden rental, the cost of adding nutrition to the soil and then there are the plants and seeds, equipment/tools, plant supports (tomato cages) and fencing, not to mention the garden time.
I am not sure how much I spend in a given year, but it must be a few hundred dollars unless I found crazy good deals or started my own seedlings.
If you are willing to get your plants in late, you can find great end of seedling season deals at the farmers market.
Which again begs the questions, do farmers selling seedlings at the farmers market compete against themselves by promoting home gardens?
I figure that gardeners are the same customers who shop at the market, and they end up buying less because they bought seedlings.
I guess it ends up being a matter of timing because farmers end up having seasonal produce available before the gardener has theirs, but eventually they catch up with each other.
All of this has me second guessing my garden.
Of course, not all gardeners grow enough and many farmers market shoppers do not gardener at all.
Part of me thinks that at least on a local food movement level that I should still grow a garden, but I am starting to think about growing a high yield, low labor, low cost donation garden if I want to push local food to donate.
And that buying from a local farmer would make more sense.
Is the local food movement about growing more local food as efficently as possible and getting that food to more local mouths?
Are we simply playing a numbers game?
To a large extent, I think it is.
When I go to the farmers market, I still see tables of produce left at the end of the day.
If the local food movement is so big and growing, wouldn’t there be a run on local food with every vendor selling out?
After all only a small presentage of the food produced and consumed in any given area is local.
So it stands to reason that if the local food movement is so big given the huge amount of media dedicated to it, we would hear about fights over the last cartoon of eggs and shoving matches at farmers markets over a bunch of kale.
I could be wrong here, but it looks like the local food movement is having a hard time creating a demand for the current yield of food that is being produced let alone pushing for larger growth.
At least that is what it looks like at the farmers market.
The local food movement needs more mouths I figure reagrdless if I have a garden or not.