First up this week, a heads up. For the last few years, we have been running a sweet offer that when you pre-fund your membership account for $1,000 we add on a $100 bonus to your account. We are going to keep doing it, but I want to run it seasonally. So we are going to continue this offer through the month of December, then after that, it will reappear only seasonally. This is a great deal to enjoy 10% savings on your food. Email for more info or to add this to your account. Now, let’s get back into food. And not just any food, but local food.
You see, I have been having this feeling that the local food scene is changing. I am not sure if it is actually changing or if I just want it to change so I sense it. I think a therapist might call that projecting?? But something is changing for me, which is a good thing because after all this is a food movement and not a food snapshot, right?
So the movement started with a direction and with a slogan that reminded us to “Buy Local.” It was everywhere and one of the greatest marketing campaigns of our time was underway. Awareness grew. New local suppliers hit the scene. Money was actually staying closer to home rather than flowing away to some faceless bank account this side of the Cayman Islands. These were and have been great things to see in our emerging local food system.
But does “Buy Local” have staying power? Will decades of sunsets pass with folks still be beating the “Buy Local” drum? I don’t think so. And here is why…
Buy local is too superficial. It’s cute, but we need something with more meat to it. More substance. I mean what is the definition of local? My backyard. My city. 100 miles. My state. My watershed? No one has ever agreed on the definition of local. And when I see these kinds of ambiguous lines being drawn in the sand, I think we need to take a pause. The question we should be asking ourselves is not what the definition of local is, but what is the point? Why do we really care about local food? Is it really about miles or is it deeper than that?
2014 concludes 15 years for me that I have been farming. I’ve lived on farms, worked on farms and fortunately started a farm. And you know what the most boring thing to talk about when it comes to farming is, food miles. UPS and marathon runners talk about miles and pat each other on the back. Farmers like to talk about stories and about families and about bears eating peaches in their trees. These are the stories that matter, not dissecting miles.
So if miles don’t tell us the whole local food story, what is a better yardstick for us to measure? The answer is pretty simple, hours. How many hours does it take to get from the field to your kitchen? This may seem pretty straightforward, but in the produce world it is everything.
Hours probably tell you a lot about miles and how far away the food is coming from, but there is something more important that they let us know, relationships. If you are buying produce from a warehouse like most grocery stores do, there is no relationship to the grower. So produce is harvested then sent to the warehouse where it awaits an order that may or may not ever come. Every day that it is waiting for that order, it gets older. Honestly, it is probably over a week old by the time that it hits any store.
Besides expanding our own production, we now have 4 farms in the Arizona and Northern Mexico area to get us the freshest produce when our fields are in their winter dormancy. So instead of calling a warehouse and asking what is sitting in their cooler, we call the farmers and ask them to harvest green beans or zucchini (etc) for us when we need them. No one else in New Mexico can offer you such a direct relationship to growers on a year-round basis.
When we engage in grower to grower relationships like this and cut out middlemen, the growers get more money for their harvests and you get more value for your buck. It is so simple and the way we want our local food landscape to look moving forward here. It is a win-win situation for everyone and we keep building these partnerships for you.