LocalHarvest Newsletter, September 25, 2008

Welcome back to the LocalHarvest newsletter.

We get this question a lot: "Is it more expensive to eat local food?" Usually we try to work our way around the question, speaking with enthusiasm about the quality and flavor of fresh local food, its healthfulness, its contribution to the local economy, etcetera. Sometimes we convince the questioners that they can’t look at price alone, because the quality of stuff that's picked green and trucked in can’t be compared with that of the fresh, vine-ripened produce. Other times the person hears us out and then says, "So it is more expensive then, huh."

The truth is, we don't know the answer to the question. As with so many substantive issues, the real answer is, "It depends." It depends on the product and the season and the vendor. Depends on whether its organic and how much of it the farmer or grocer is trying to move that week. Lots and lots of variables. Still, with the economy looming large in many people's minds, it seems a good time to try and find out.

A few days ago I took a notebook to my local supermarket, made a list of the prices for various fruits and vegetables, and then compared notes at my farmers market. The organic produce section at the grocery store was completely cleared out on this particular day, so I gathered conventional produce prices at the store and "low spray" at the market. Small watermelons (the ones they’re calling "mini" or "personal size" this year) were $2 at the farmers market and $4.49 at the store. Local tomatoes at the grocery store were $2.49 a pound, and $1.50 a pound at the market. Peppers were less expensive at the market. Winter squash was about the same. Onions were cheaper at the store.

This small foray into price comparisons made me want to know more. I would like to have a good answer the next time a reporter calls to ask me whether ‘local’ is more expensive. Not that price is the only measure of value, but it is one, and sometimes an important one. Moreover, the perception about the relative price of buying local is also very important.

I'd like to ask for your help.

What I have in mind is a kind of collective research project. This newsletter will go out to about 50,000 people. Certainly a few dozen of you might be interested in doing a little comparative shopping over the next couple of months and maybe again in the spring? I have a spreadsheet that I will send to anyone who is interested. You can fill out the portions of it that apply to the foods that are in season where you live, and send it back to me. We’ll compile all the data and report the findings back to the group. If you are interested in learning more about participating in this grassroots research, please contact me.

Meanwhile, please enjoy the rest of the newsletter, and as always, Eat well and take good care –


Erin Barnett
Director, LocalHarvest

From the LocalHarvest Store:

The smell of Fall is in the air and Thanksgiving is getting closer. We have been talking with our turkey farmers, and they tell us that the birds are all strutting around their pastures, fattening up. We often sell out of certain types of turkeys, so order yours early!

CSAs – they aren't just for summers anymore! The LocalHarvest directory includes 753 CSAs that offer winter shares, some of whom sell these shares through our store. To see if there’s one near you, go to our CSA search engine and then enter your zip code to narrow the search.

This is a longer newsletter than usual, so I won't go on and on about our products. Let me just remind you of a few of our current best sellers: dried lavender, passion fruit, honey, wild blueberries, and medicinal herbs.

Almond Lawsuit Filed

Longtime readers will recall that about 15 months ago we wrote about a new mandate requiring that all raw almonds grown in the U.S. be "pasteurized" via steam or a toxic chemical process – while still labeled "raw." Pasteurization is meant to protect the public from germs that thrive where sloppy agriculture and food handling are practiced. Critics (like us) say that if everyone would wash their hands and keep animal manure off the nuts, then pasteurization would be unnecessary and "raw" could actually mean what it’s always meant.
(Read on...)

Kitchen Gardens for All – even Mr. President

I read the newsletter of a small organization called Kitchen Gardener's International. You should too, if the following appeals to you -- a little quirkiness, some sound gardening advice, a few nice how-to videos, and a congenial online forum for fresh food fans. Right now KGI’s founder, Roger Doiron, is on a mission to put a garden fork in the hands of our next President, and it turns out it’s not even a new idea. Check out this short video showing the history of America's "First Garden" – food raised on the White House lawn.

Nancy's Nutrition Corner: Potatoes

Whenever I think about potatoes, my mind immediately goes to the Glycemic Index. Maybe that's because I'm a naturopath, but really - everyone should think about the GI when potatoes come to mind! Let me explain...
(Read on...)

Recipe Corner: Quinoa with Purple Potatoes - By Lorna Sass

There once was a time when eating potatoes meant fried, baked, or boiled. Since few people made fries at home, we all contently kept baking potatoes stocked in the kitchens and the more adventurous kept a stash of new potatoes for boiling.
(Recipes and More...)