Where Stands the Era of Accessible and Affordable
A lot of arguments towards eating local can be swatted away, but there are reasons against eating local. The twin questions of access and affordability represent valid issues. How hard is it to find local food; how much will the local food cost. While I do believe these present challenges, I also believe they are challenges that can be handled. For proof, I have reported for several weeks on the local foods being advertised by the Chicago area grocery chains as well as reporting on visits to the Angelo Caputo’s market in Elmwood Park. That evidence shows that, at least in late summer and early fall, local food is both accessible and affordable. The problem, however, what happens the rest of the year.
The fliers in last Wednesday’s Chicago Tribune contained barely a word on local food. Has local food been once again silo’d to the farmer’s markets? Markets that are generally wrapping up this month. I can report that ad-evidence notwithstanding, local food did still appear abundant at my neighborhood Caputo’s, and as always, the prices remained under a $1/lb. Local food still out there included plenty of apples, pears, cabbage, eggplants, onions and tomatoes. It does go to show that the variety of local food easily found, is diminishing. That is a problem.
On the other hand, there are a couple of options for locavores that I have not yet discussed. Yesterday, my family and I visited the newly moved Maxwell Street Market (now on Des Plaines north of Taylor). We found two stands selling an array of local produce, including a few types of summer squashes, tomatoes, apples, many varieties of peppers, tomatillos, cucumbers and some exotic herbs. All of the produce we saw yesterday had that wonderfully plain, imperfect look that I seek in my produce. Both vendors priced their stuff at $1/lb, but both vendors were extremely generous with their calculations, rounding the prices down and throwing in extra food for free. One of the vendors, at least (I only asked one) said he would be there for another 4 weeks. So, for another month, the Maxwell Street Market is a fine source for affordable local food.
As of last weekend, area farmstands had a lot of food. On LTHForum, Cathy2 reported a successful trip to Von Bergen’s Country Market in Hebron, Illinois. Schlepping to a farmstand may not be the epitome of accessible, but these places are out there, with excellent prices. Take a field trip. If you are strictly urban, you now have an outlet downtown for local foods five days a week. The extended daily hours of this market make it easier to get food for dinners.
I popped into the Whole Foods near Maxwell Street yesterday. I tend to be dismissive of their local inventory, but I was happy with the local apples on sale yesterday. For 99 cents/lb, they offered all of the varieties seldom seen in stores, the Macouns and Raritans and Ida Reds; apples too big, too small, too round or too russeted to fit the apple idea normally for sale these days. I do not know if other Whole Foods have these apples, but it is worth finding out.
Local food will not disappear in a month of so. Fall and Winter CSAs exist. Cassie will have it at her Green Grocer. Robin’s got a big lineup of winter markets (keep an eye on these pages for more news) and Green City is also planning something this winter. Irv and Shelly have their service. Geneva will run their year round superstore, and enterprising locavores can brave the elements to visit markets in places like Ann Arbor and Madison. We can manage then but we are thriving now, in the era of accessible and affordable.