Necessary Costs

March 17, 2009 at 9:22 am

Rob Gardner

Next week, WBBM Channel 2 news will feature local eating.  During the interview, the reporter raised the issue of cost.  Hopefully in what airs will not include my inability to answer exactly how  much we spend on food.  On the other hand, I hope they include the part where I state that I believe we spend less on food, eating local than we used too.  I believe we spend less for two reasons.  First, we do not partake in restaurant meals as often as we once did.  Second, we buy very limited amounts of junk food and prepared foods.  The extra dollars for local milk and red strawberries easily come in less than the money for one crappy meal for four at Chipoltle.   I did not mention the costs of excess food.

My wife, pretty reflexively, will answer when I bring up throwing out food, “that’s a price I’m willing to pay.”  And if she accepts that we buy more food than we get to eat, who am I to question.  It’s not always the winter that produces surplus.  At the height of market/CSA season, we do not always get to everything we have.   In fact, our CSA Farmer, Vicki Westerhoff intends for us to not eat everything she packs.  She believes that summer bounty makes for winter meals.  We know people here and there who even complain about getting too much food in their boxes.  It needs freezing and canning.  Something we do not always manage.  That’s kind of accidental loss, not getting to all the week’s food.  We  also have intentional loss, buying more than enough.

We try to eat local all the time.  As I noted yesterday and many other times, the reasons to eat local do not disappear after the markets close.  To eat local during the winter depends on stored food and preserved food, supplemented by winter market buys.  The thing is, after three winters, we still do not have this equation down.   You just do not know what food will store right.  This year our squash went bad way before we expected, a product, it seems, of a wet fall.  Some well stored food still fails.  Apples here and there get soft.  We also do not know what we will find week-to-week at the winter markets, nor do we know how many trips we will take to places like Madison.  I also always note, we are motivated by ideals not necessity.  If we run out of potatoes in the attic, we will not starve.  Yet, we try mightily to resist the lure of Idaho potatoes.   Our solution, the necessary solution, is to have enough food on hand.

This Local Family believes in necessary costs to eat local.  A little more for the right milk, investments in canning equipment, and especially in purchasing enough food to make it through the leaner times.  If some of that food won’t get eaten, that’s a price we are willing to pay.