One of the first things I looked up about our new community prior to leaving Nantucket was information on the food scene. Eating sustainable foods, gown locally and in season are very important to us because we believe that is on of the best ways we can remain healthy, minimize our impact on the planet, support our local farmers, and stay within our grocery budget. For the past few weeks I have done my darnedest to try and find a CSA so we can continue to enjoy weekly shares of locally grown fruits and veggies as we have loved for the past five years. However, in the land of late April snowstorms, last frost dates that can creep into June, clay soil, and little precipitation, I am quickly discovering just how challenging it will be for us to continue our locavore lifestyle. Any farms I could find listed online as having CSAs are, unfortunately, no longer doing them and word of mouth has yielded little, so the weekend before last, Chris and I decided to make the trek up to Sheridan to check out the local foods expo. Chris was able to connect with a few ranchers about getting local meat for his restaurant, and I spoke at length with a rancher who sells free range eggs and offers raw milk. I’m quite pleased to be able to get local eggs, which we haven’t had since living in the Hudson Valley. I’m curious about raw milk and love the idea of knowing exactly where our milk comes from and how the cows are cared for, but I’ll admit I’m also nervous about giving it to the girls, so we haven’t gone down that path yet. (I’d love it if you have any opinions on/experiences with raw milk if you would leave me a comment!)
The trip yielded lots of beautiful scenery, a connection with a cloth diapering mama, and delicious eggs, but no exciting farm discoveries — the only CSA there doesn’t deliver to our town. There is a Farmer’s Market in town, so I’m hopeful I might find something there, but with no CSA to be found, I’m not going to lie — I’m pretty disappointed in the produce scene up here.
The only alternative I’ve found to grocery store shopping is a co-op called Bountiful Baskets, which exists in many states surrounding Wyoming as well. The co-op allows anyone (no membership required) to place an order Monday morning and receive a share of produce Saturday morning. Shares are distributed at different pick up locations around the county, which can sell out quickly. I’ve learned that if I want to place an order, I have to log onto their website right at 9 am or risk having to drive to another town Saturday morning (or just deciding not to order at all)
The shares are roughly 50% vegetables and 50% fruit; they cost $15 dollars and like a CSA are supposed to feed a family of four for a week. For an additional $10 fee, baskets can be upgraded to 100% organic, which seems to yield a slightly smaller amount of produce but which is still less expensive than the grocery store. I have participated twice, once ordering a conventional basket
and once ordering 100% organic.
(Sorry for the color this is a cell phone picture.)
In addition, they have “add-ons” that can also be purchased. Special theme packs like this Thai pack ($14),
bread packs ($10 conventional or $12 organic)granola, coconut oil, and bulk size packages of produce, like this 25lb bag of carrots ($10.50).
While the co-op is clearly cheaper than grocery store shopping, I’m on the fence about it because it breaks two of our biggest food rules: don’t buy food out of season and don’t buy food that wasn’t grown in the U.S.
Not only does Bountiful Baskets provide all kinds of out of season produce (tomatoes and cucumbers in April, come on), it also has tons of things that were grown in Mexico and other countries I normally avoid like the plague. There are certainly instances where I make saving money my number one priority, but when it comes to food I’d much rather support my own country’s economy and (hopefully) farm workers who are not being exploited to bring me my food (I cursed every one of those bananas). Chris likes the savings of Bountiful Baskets and thinks that ought to be our choice during the non-farmer’s market months, but I just don’t know. It just might go against my ideals too much to justify the savings.
What do you think? How do you rank the priority of food cost versus all the other factors that come into play when selecting produce?