A few months ago, along with a friend, I hosted an evening called A Gathering of Nourishment here in my home. My friend and I prepared an extensive meal of whole foods which we lovingly served to the many women that gathered. Together we shared a meal of clean, energizing food and hours of inspiring and encouraging conversation. The topics were slightly different than those prompted by the "Groceries, Expense or Investment?" post - but not too different, and the evening felt very similar. Feeding our families is a daily, universal task that connects us to one another so easily. No matter where we live in the world, whether we are crafty bloggers, political bloggers, mommy bloggers, faith-based bloggers or who knows what; in this daily practice we are the same. And it is extremely comforting to feel like our struggles, our priorities and our values are in line with and understood by a greater community.
Caitlin wrote that she learned something from each and every comment, me too Caitlin! I feel like there is so much to take away from the comments that I went ahead and created a button over on the right sidebar that links to the post directly. I'll leave it up for a while so new and old readers can easily visit on occasion... people will continue to comment on that for a little while longer and that will make it easy to locate and check in on the conversation.
Some highlight's for me...
:: CSA's- Wow! So many of you belong to CSA's in your area which of course is awesome. Some of you wondered why we do not. An excellent question with a simple answer. They aren't really that common around here, it's just not the norm quite yet. If you were to go to Local Harvest and type in my zipcode, you would find 7 farms offering CSA. Of those, 5 of them are over 45 minutes away, one is about 35 minutes away, and one is actually someone I know, a friend of a friend. They run a mostly meat CSA and started out this year by offering 10 shares, which I think sold out in just three days back in January! They have joined us this year at the Coventry Farmers Market and we are so glad to have them in the mix.
Our local food co-op is two blocks from my house. I've talked about this place many times before, but let me just go on a little bit more today as it does relate to the topic. Being the only store front food co-op in the entire state is no small thing. It is harder than hard to stand up against Whole Foods, Trader Joes, and major grocery stores with natural food departments, but they do it... they do it because they are dedicated beyond belief. If they can offer kale from Tobacco Road Farm, then they won't sell any shipped in from California. If Wayne's Garden garlic and onions are in, there is no need to ship them up from Florida. And the eggs? You'll never find an out of state egg on their shelves... the list goes on. Aside from the overwhelming opportunities for farmers to sell their fruits, veggies, dairy, and eggs; there is also the immense satisfaction that I get as a consumer knowing that I am helping to provide health insurance, a fair wage, and a blissful work environment for Alice, Bruce, Jeff, Chad, Jon, Mark, and so forth. I put my trust and my faith in their hands, and they have never let me down. It really, really matters to me that I do more than my fair share to keep this precious place in business, especially in today's bizarre world of grocery shopping.
So, yes there are a very few CSA's in the area. None really within driving distance for us. My Farmers' Market neighbor is dipping his toes into the world of CSA by maintaining a small (I believe 10 families) email list that he sends a notice out to early in the week notifying them with what he has, what he can put together in a basket for that week and a price, they respond if they'd like in on the week's offering and come pick it up at his farm. For now, he feels good about the arrangement. In the future he may grow into a more typical CSA operation, but says he'd be too nervous at this point about the success or failure of the year's crops to go down that road. He acknowledges that as members/shareholders that is what we are signing on for, he's just not ready to go there yet. Maybe someday.
All of this to say, if there were CSA choices in my area, absolutely we would join. But I have a feeling that in this immediate area, with the Farmers Markets being as highly attended as they are, and with The Co-op providing such a routine storefront venue for farmers, I think for now, farmers might be a little slow to dive into the world of CSA. I've also talked with several farmers about this and I get the sense too that there is a bit of that old Yankee "don't promise what you might not be able to deliver" mentality. Which of course we all know they need to let go of because as shareholders that is half the beauty for us... that we have their backs... that we're in this together... feast or famine all around... Yankees, we are slow to change and we are stubborn, ;)
(My breakfast of choice lately. Vanilla yogurt, blueberries, granola, a touch of maple syrup.)
:: Expense - As a majority, those who commented are not in the least concerned with cutting back their grocery expense just for the sake of cutting back and spending less. Actually, many of us go without in many other areas of our lives just to have that extra $20-$30 in the grocery budget each week. Quality of food matters to each of us, and supporting farmers matters overwhelmingly to this group. When cost comes into consideration (myself included), it simply has to do with the sheer cost of living overall, and the fact that wages/salaries just don't go up along with fuel, food, and housing costs. There is an undeniable imbalance that needs to be considered and at the end of the day only so many dollars to go around.
:: Garden - So many of us are gardening, we are growing some or most of our own food! We have very limited sunlight on our property, but we work with what is before us and grow kale, lettuce, cucumbers and beans rather successfully (though isn't this year tough with all the rain). We are not able to grow all that we consume however, so yes, I do supplement with bunches of kale that cost almost $4.00! Oh well... ;)
We have a three year old raspberry bush that sees barely any sunlight and as of this morning we have harvested over 3 quarts of berries from it so far this year with another week or so of picking to go. If you don't have full sunlight, try raspberries, it's working here!
(For Adam's lunchbox, I pack the granola separately. Glass peanut butter jars make awesome wide-mouth travel containers.)
:: Dairy- It's just expensive isn't it? It's not too much of a factor for us because unlike fruits and veggies, I try to ration our dairy intake. I can't help but feel nutritionally depleted from excessive amounts of dairy (as much as I LOVE it), so it plays a more moderate (and occasionally absent) role in our diet than fruits and veggies. Though I do appear to be showing a lot of dairy love in these photos... !
:: Links- There are a tremendous amount of links to follow within the comments, but Typepad just switched formats again and is not allowing me to create a list of them... please check out the many wonderful places you can travel to! I do want to mention a post that Sarah, of cloth.paper.string wrote recently. It's an interesting post about buying food. Asking questions such as how do you define local? Is it better to eat locally grown-overly packaged foods or those from further away with no packaging? Another good conversation, be sure to check it out.
So where do we go from here? To the market or the farm I suppose! And then to the kitchen, followed by the dinner table, where we will break bread with our loved ones knowing that we did our best, because for them, and for ourselves, anything less simply isn't good enough.
Thanks to each of you who offered your own story to this topic. Unknowingly, you helped and inspired kindred souls all over the world.