Saturday, April 19

Conflicted (Part II)

Okay... did you watch The Story of Stuff video? I'd like to discuss the part where she talks about "true cost" (The $4.99 radio at Radio Shack). I understand this concept and try my best to support local agriculture, support businesses with sustainable practices, etc. I can tell you it is REALLY EXPENSIVE... thus my conflicted feelings.

One of the things I enjoy doing is shopping at the local farmer's market. Isn't it a lovely notion to think that you can develop a relationship with the people who grow your food?! On Saturday mornings my son and I will often walk over to Portland State to enjoy the market. We enjoy people watching, the entertainment and the yummy treats. Of course, I also try to support the vendors and make a few purchases. Unfortunately my last two experiences have left me feeling a bit bitter. Here are the stories of my last two farmer's market purchases.

Last November my son was making "stone soup" at his preschool. My son needed to bring in potatoes as his contribution to the soup. "Lovely", I thought to myself... we will go to the farmer's market and buy directly from the farmer. We ventured out on a very cold and rainy Saturday. I spot a man in a tent with a pile of dirty potatoes on a table. This man had dirty overalls and looked like he collected the potatoes that very morning. I had images of him driving his old pick-up truck into a muddy field and loading up with this crop of potatoes. These were not fancy potatoes. They were not displayed beautifully like some of the other farm stands. I had my son select 4 potatoes and we handed them to the farmer to be weighed. He responded, "eight dollars". I silently thought, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME... 8 DOLLARS for 4 potatoes? How? Why?". I wanted to walk away, but it would have been very difficult to explain this to my 3 year old son. I paid the man the $8, but I didn't feel good about. I felt rather exploited.

Winter passed and so did my potato related frustration. I was excited to go to the opening market in April. Farm fresh eggs were on my list. I immediately spied a lovely egg vendor with a clever name, Square Peg Farm. "Perfect", I thought... I approached the woman and asked for one dozen eggs. She replied, "That will be $5.50." HOW CAN THIS BE? Since when has shopping at a farmer's market become exclusive and elite? It used to be about cutting out the middle-man and buying direct from the farmer. It used to be about buying what is plentiful and in season (for a great price). Not anymore! Yes... I am ashamed to admit that I actually paid $5.50 for a dozen eggs. Am I stupid or a good steward and supporter of local agriculture?

As you can tell, I am feeling very conflicted about this. I understand that we have to pay more for sustainable practices. I really want to, but too often, I feel like a chump.

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