Eating local: Do farming cooperatives make sense?
October 4, 2012 § 4 Comments
Dave and I are working toward growing all of our food here on our little farm. So far, we haven’t quite made our goal. This season, with most of our tomato plants being destroyed by an unbelievable grub population, a drought that prevented our fruit trees from producing any fruit at all, some sort of weird blackberry blight (probably caused by the drought, but who knows?), and Dave inadvertently cutting down most of our herb plants, we’re not making much progress on self-sufficiency.
Not to mention that I want chickens and Dave doesn’t…he’s afraid of predators, and I really can’t blame him, seeing as how we have roving gangs of coyotes, plus ospreys and eagles that snatch up fowl (plus cats). So, we aren’t even collecting our own eggs. Except for the pastures that we rent out to the neighbor for cattle, our little farm isn’t terribly productive these days.
The only renewable resource that’s really going well for us with this season are wildflowers, and we can hardly eat those.
Although we’re planting more vegetables this fall (we have two growing seasons in our region), there’s no way we’re going to be able to get through the winter on our resources alone. We need help. I’ve considered joining a cooperative, which allows us to buy in to a local farm. In return, we receive a share of the farm’s locally grown fruits and vegetables. In theory, this sounds like a good idea…we give a farmer $45 a week, and the farmer gives us a bunch of fruits, vegetables, eggs, and meats.
Sounds like a good deal, doesn’t it? These days, we’re easily spending that much money (or more) every week in the produce section of our local grocery store. But, think further…the farmer isn’t exactly local. He’s 2 hours north of us. Once a week, he drives to a neighborhood coffee shop, where he delivers produce boxes (cardboard boxes purchased from an international box company), filled with produce that he grew on his farm, plus some meats that he raised and smoked, and some fruits that he imported from Mexico…wait a minute…Mexico? So, it appears that it is not all exactly “local,” although, to be fair, Mexico is a 6-hour drive south of us, which is sort of local.
It would be nice to join the coop, but we wonder if the transportation costs outweigh the benefits. As an engineer, I consider the cost benefit of every decision we make in our household, and right now I am wondering if mostly local, all healthy outweighs what I am purchasing in the grocery store.
I love the idea of a crate of vegetables/fruit/meat every week, but dislike the idea of the packing crate being from Peru (or wherever it comes from), and my fruit being from Mexico. While I wish Mexico great success, I also wish to support our community. Meanwhile, I’m concerned about some truck driver, travelling 2 hours just to deliver a few crates to me and my neighbors.
Is it worth it? What would you do, in my situation? Would you buy the (mostly) locally grown food, or stick with the grocery store? The prices for the farm food, via a cooperative, are really about the same, although I probably get a little more choice with the grocery store option.
Do you think a cooperative is worthwhile? And if, so, how are you liking it? I don’t care much about the selection, since Dave and I are pretty imaginative, and we can craft a decent meal from just about anything. However, does choice matter much to you? How much of a stickler are you with regard to using a menu? are you willing to make substitutions?