Most of us purchase our groceries at the supermarket. Of course we do. Supermarkets carry a good variety of affordable produce; however, it won’t be long until summer is here and with it comes the bounty of locally grown foods. Already my mouth is watering for fresh salad greens tossed with simple vinaigrette, steamed asparagus and pan fried, rosemary potatoes…oh, I’m ready! What I’m not ready to do is spend the majority of my food dollar at the regular grocery store, not in the summer and especially not here in the NW where we are blessed with a huge number of options.
I love to visit the famous and iconic Pike Place Market on the Seattle Waterfront. In many ways it symbolizes what a farmer’s market is supposed to be: It’s a wonderful place to find fresh (and sometimes exotic) food products and people-watch. It also tends to be a little pricy and let’s face it; Pike Place isn’t available to most of us on a regular basis. So when our bounties of great local foods are at their prime, how can we find farm fresh foods in markets similar to Pike Place? As it turns out, we here in the NW have access to many farmer’s markets and community-based farming.
LOCAL FOOD MARKETS
If you live in Puget Sound, there are quite a number of famers’ markets that offer a wide array of products from fruits and vegetables, meats, flowers and other products (such as sauces, cheeses and honey). Did you know that there are over 125 farmers’ markets in WA State? One of the best resources for discovering where to find these markets is The Washington State Farmers Market Association whose website is full of useful information. Find a market near you.
FARMS AND COMMUNITY SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE
Most of us are familiar with terms such as “organic food,” localism and the slow food movement. These notions of purchasing the highest quality, local, in-season products have been around for a long time and going to a local market certainly brings one close to the producers. There is another option for you to get “up-close-and-personal” with locally produced foods. It’s called subscription farming or community supported agriculture (CSA)(subscription farming or community supported agriculture (CSA)). It works this way:
CSAs generally focus on the production of high quality foods for a local community and a shared risk membership–marketing structure. In other words, a farm will offer people the opportunity to purchase “a share” in the farm (to help with operating costs) and the consumers then receive a portion of the farm’s production. In most cases the farm has a pick-up point for the products every week or the produce is delivered to the shareholder.
I happen to have a bit of personal experience with CSA as I have been involved with a Redmond, WA based farm called Growing Washington for several years now. Suffice it to say, I am incredibly pleased with the products I’ve received and I’m signed up again this year. CSA’s vary in size and scope and Growing Washington happens to be very well organized. Each week I go to an order page on their website and I can choose from a large number of products (generally 30 products). I usually purchase a regular share that provides me with 9 items each week for 25 weeks (June – November). If you’re interested to see what a “share” actually looks like for a whole season watch this interactive slideshow. Also make sure you turn the sound on…it’s a cool presentation!
HOW CAN FAMILIES AFFORD MARKETS AND CSA’S?
As a financial counselor I’m sensitive to the economics of food shopping. It’s one of those tough areas for families who might be struggling to make ends meet and I’ve had people criticize me for even suggesting that people shop at markets or purchase CSA shares because they are too expensive. Well, I believe there’s misconception about the cost of the products in our supermarkets and those offered by local farmers. Many of the products at markets are competitively priced with their supermarket counterparts. Surprisingly, not everything at markets is “organic” and so prices are quite competitive.
So how much am I paying for my CSA “share” this year? I am paying $765 for a 25 week supply of produce which will be broken out into four payments. Sounds expensive, but I will be receiving a generous supply of 9, farm fresh products each week that I’ve chosen. That’s $30.60 per week. And one more thing, NOTHING I can purchase in the supermarket compares to the quality and quantity I receive from my CSA.
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