TRUE COST OF FOOD

Homegrown food... priceless.

A farm stand customer recently wrote:

Q. I was just wondering why your prices for arugula and kale are so much higher than Whole Paycheck (aka Whole Foods)?

I replied:

“Thank you for your email, you definitely raised a legitimate question: the cost of food.

I haven’t been to Whole Foods in ages so I am not aware of the produce prices; however, I am quite aware that Whole Foods puts small farmers like us in jeopardy. They can buy in massive quantities from all around the world and provide ‘fresh’ year round produce.

Our greens are seasonal and so currently we have only limited quantities of greens and the prices reflect the seasons.  As with anything, per pound prices are cheaper than the per ounce price. Generally our bulk green prices are much cheaper than individual bunches.

Since we aren’t a large scale operation and do the planting and picking ourselves our prices are in line with Farmers Market prices.  I’ve been to the local farmer’s market and our prices are similar with the local farmers there.

As we get to spring, our green prices will go down a bit but we will never will be able to match such a large corporate mega store like Whole Foods.   The price to support true local foods does come with a somewhat small price that consumers must take into consideration.”

A recent article in The Atlantic did a good job at giving us some “food for thought”

THE VALUE OF OUR PRODUCE  (via The Atlantic)

What is a carrot worth? A bunch of kale? A handful of berries? Too often, I find myself on the tractor making quick calculations in my head. For a bed of carrots, there are the soil amendments, the cover crop last fall, the chicken manure, the organic fertilizer, the plowing, tilling, seeding, irrigating, thinning, weeding, harvesting, washing, bunching, packing, and selling. Plus the cost of the tractors, implements, and fuel. Plus the cost of childcare and preschool. Plus, somehow, all the time spent on the computer (where does that fit in)? And I haven’t even mentioned the cost of the land (hundreds of thousands of dollars, in our case). The sheer number of labor hours and material and property costs that went into helping this soil produce these carrots. I ought to shellac the carrots and hang them on the wall.

Read full article

What are your thoughts?   Besides, growing your own, should you pay more to support small, local farmers?

Comments(19)

  1. Regina Rose says:

    Yes, there is way more work growing organic veggies. You don’t have the same toxic chemicals to fight bugs. Depending on how far to market your Farmer has to go there are gas prices. There is the farmer’s own time/life and life blood that they have put into it.

    There is also, the supply and demand factor in it too. I often think, what if we all got our veggies/fruits as close to home as possible…. wouldn’t that make it a bit cheeper, not only for us but for the farmer themselves. Especially if we the consumer made it worth it for the farmer by using our dollars to support them. ? I think so.

    I often ask my self… what is my hour of time worth? Farming is work. Lets pay them what they are worth!

  2. michelle short says:

    Great article and reminder! I have a small garden, several kinds of berries, fruit trees, chickens and bees in the Memphis suburbs. There is no way to calculate my time, energy, and love! Keep up the good work. Love the blog.

  3. Lael Alon says:

    I have followed your journey for many years now, and in part because of the inspiration you’ve provided, have just begun the journey towards our own small sustainable farm. I appreciate your article about food costs, as this is a real issue for many people in balancing cost and efforts with affordable quality food availability for the average person (especially in this economy). I agree with most of your cost listings, and they are many, including the major cost of land or equipment spread out over all the crops over all the years of service… I am concerned, though, that you’ve listed daycare and preschool as a food cost. I must stress that your children are a personal expense, and I wouldn’t want to pay for their care or schooling with every carrot or bunch of kale. In my humble opinion that cost comes out of the hourly wage you ought to be paying yourself. I wouldn’t want people putting all their personal expenses into the food prices and thinking that that is a fair notion to do to your consumers. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and efforts! —Lael

    • Anais Dervaes says:

      Thanks for the thoughts, appreciate your sharing. FYI the article was not written by me, I just linked to it… food for thought so to speak 🙂

  4. Trish says:

    I believe it is worth it to spend a little more to support local farmers. Even though big grocery chains sell organic foods, it is still massed produced and not as good as the produce that comes from small scale organic farms. I believe there are different grades of quality in organic food and I would pay the extra for better tasting and better nutritional food.

  5. Betsy says:

    Absolutely buy from local gardeners! Add the cost to the environment of storage and shipping the produce to large stores, like Whole Foods, and the cost of locally grown produce is far the better buy.

    Betsy

  6. Jeni Vandall says:

    There really isn’t much else to say…I think your email back said it perfect! The thing that some people (even those who love organic foods) don’t realize is what you pointed out. Big corporations can buy in huge bulk and when you eat in season along with being a small farm you are right there is no way you/we can compete with that.

    I think we all need to stop and think about how much our food and nutrition really means to us! It is unfortunate that you can buy a combo meal somewhere cheaper then you can buy a head of lettuce sometimes, but is that what we should be eating?

    Keep doing what your doing!! If I lived in CA and close to you I would love to support you and buy your produce!! Well that is what I don’t grow anyway…lol

  7. Jamie says:

    Agreed with previous posts. The point of farmers markets is not to necessarily get a bargain – I can go to my local grocery store and buy, let’s say, a pound of organic apples for $1.00/lb on sale. But even though they are organic, they are still subject to the rules of the non-organic produce, meaning the ones that end up in the grocery store are the varieties that pack well and ship well, look pretty, etc. Doesn’t mean they are the best tasting. When you pay a slight premium for the fruits and veggies at the farmers market, you are also paying sometimes for better tasting food, heirloom varieties that you can’t get anywhere else.

  8. Chris says:

    One question I would ask back is: Are they comparing OG WF produce to your offerings or conventional WF produce (arugula, kale, etc.)? Regardless, once produce is picked it begins to lose it’s nutritional value rapidly. Additionally, there is the fossil fuel consumption and environmental impact to bring this produce to WF shelves and then to the consumer. Fresh is best and supporting farmers in your local community is not only good for your environment, it is better for your health. You also don’t know if this produce has been irradiated and/or treated in some way even if it was grown organically to “keep it fresh enough”. Different states have different laws about how stuff is treated once it begins to cross state lines. Another issue is packaging material and the cost to the environment in not only producing those plastic containers, but what happens to them once you are finished with it ending up in landfills and bio-degrading … not! We are facing a food sovereignty crisis here in the USA. Most grocery stores across the USA only carry a 3 day supply of food. What happens in a natural disaster or worse? If you do not have community organic farms, then what? We vote with our dollars every single day. Your dollar, your choice.

  9. KS Khew says:

    I’ll pay more because I want to support myself in terms of getting better food value -nutrition, taste, safety. If it’s double the price, I’ll cut back on other expenses( often unnecessary ) or simply eat half the amount. For eg, I’ve gotten more benefits from a third or half a good quality raw carrot than from one whole cooked. If people reasoned this way, they’ll find themselves $aving a bundle on unnece$$ary and expen$ive health i$$ue$. Collectively, a healthier society makes a significant impact in various ways which in turn makes an impact on the individual – what goes round comes around.

    • kai says:

      I try to buy local produce and stuff as much as we can afford. I grow our lettuce and carrots and herbs as well as tomatoes. I dont agree with eating less to afford food especially with small children. I have 3 growing littles and one is a nursling. So no one in our house can have less and i encourage them to listen to their bodies to know when more is needed. That means i must sometimes sacrifice organic or local to meet our bills and stay in our food budget

  10. michelle short says:

    Referenced y’all in a post today on my other blog, The Professor and The Housewife, and added a link to Home Grown Revolution. Love what you are doing. You are an inspiration and people need a vision of what COULD be!
    http://www.theprofessorandthehousewife.com/

  11. Patti says:

    I have no problem paying my local farmers for their products. I know they work hard to provide a good product. I know whatever I am purchasing from them is far superior to anything I could purchase from a grocery store, fresher, better nutritionally, etc.

  12. CeAnne says:

    To us its more about the philosophy rather than sheer numbers. It seems in this country we have all managed to separate everything from each other whether such as the cost of our food from the quality of the product when if we calculate the health benefits and benefits for our family and the planet that God gave us to manage and use as a tool we would see that the apple or such is really not just a dollar amount. Its a benefit to our body and our health. We can’t live without food and this fake economy that prices food at much less than it is worth isn’t bound to sustain for very long. Ideally everyone would have 11 acres to grow their own food on (or even 1/5 of an acre 🙂 ) and they wouldn’t need to go to the store and pay such and such a price for their food. It would be better for the economy, better for our health and better for the soil and our souls. After all the only reason most of us work is so that we can buy food, shelter and clothes. What if we just grew our own food, built our own shelter and made our own clothes. Ah the simplicity of life that we would have without all of these extra complicated problems!

  13. Linda in FL says:

    Last year when we had to dig up our own potatoes I made the comment, if everyone had to get out there with a hand trowel, or shovel, or hoe and dig their own potatoes, a lot less people would be eating a super size french fries from ol McD’s if they had to get it out of the ground, wash it, and chop it themselves. Gardening is hard work, and worth every penny you sell your goods for! I don’t think people really realize that until they try to garden themselves.

  14. Deb says:

    I live in Washington State. Most of my homegrown foods (even eggs) have a season. The joy of fresh peas is that they can only be had in late June or early July….in June they are priceless, if I can only get them from my local farm I will pay almost anything. If they come from my backyard I hoard them…YOU could not pay me enough for my first peas (though you COULD score an invitation to my table), it is my reward, but come July, I will work during the holiday so that you can have peas with your 4th of July meal. What is that worth? The more common different seasonal produce becomes, the less value it has to those who buy it instead of grow it. I don’t know if this makes sense, but it loses its celebration value.

    I recently read that powerful grocery stores like Wal-Mart can demand the best organic produce AND demand that it cost no more than 10% more than “regular” produce. It is said that this puts organic growers into the slave labor category. We get no subsidies for our effort (nor do I personally want any, I’m just saying that the field is uneven). I imagine that all that matters to the mom on a tight budget, who has worked hard for the little bit of money she can budget for her table is the cost. Unless she can find the time and energy to grow a container of lettuce or peas or tomatoes, all our communication about what it costs to grow real, local food will be drowned out by her shrinking budget….I vote that we help her garden and fill in the extras that her job or homeowners association will not allow her to do herself. Even in cold Washington I love to celebrate seasonal in my writing. It gets the “keeper of the keys” in other households dreaming.

    • kai says:

      I too am in wa. I love pea season. Until last month we have always been in an apt. Container gardens have been a blessing from the mother on our tables. I love your idea of helping low income peoples provide their own small bits of foods. I wonder how to start something like this.

      We just purchased a home on 1/3 acre and i already planted blue and black berries, strawberries, raspberries, 12tomatoes, an herb gareden, and flowers for bees.

  15. Lisa says:

    You can’t just look at the prices on the shelf at the grocery. Big agriculture is government subsidized to make the cost ‘lower’ for the consumer–but we are paying for that ‘lower’ cost with our tax dollars! It costs the ‘big’ farmer as much or more to produce the food–the ‘little’ farmer deserves a living wage for his work!

  16. Mely says:

    Hi Anais I am currently taking Diatomacious Earth Perma guard food gradeable have you heard of it and do you think its a great thing to drink. It kills pesticides ect. Do you drink anything to keep your skin and hair beautiful or for great health let m eknow thank you
    Mely

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