One of the issues that keeps coming up in trying to eat as much local food as possible is convenience. Slowly, I’ve been changing my shopping habits, finding local sources instead of buying from big box stores and going to the amazing farmers’ markets even in the winter months. But it’s hard, especially through the winter months, to drive out to individual farms for a few items or plan to go to the markets that are only open for a few hours on certain days–and on days that can be pretty wet and cold. In other words, not convenient. So that’s where the big stores snag us. We can go in at just about any time we want and pick up a huge variety of food.
But as I try to go more local, I’ve become more aware of what that convenience means. For instance, the other day when I ran out of my local onions, I thought I’d buy one from the Fred Meyer store–something I’d done for years without really thinking about it. They didn’t have any organic onions, so I picked up a conventionally grown sweet onion and read the label. It was from Peru. Really? Flown all the way here to flavor my chili? When we have so many local onions available, it just doesn’t make sense. I put the onion back into the pile and used garlic for my chili instead.
So just to see where those onions at Fred Meyer came from, I googled sweet onions, Peru, and came up with a link to Bland Farms. I don’t know for sure if those onions came from this particular company, but I thought I’d share this information from their site:
The once seasonal operation is now multi-national with locations in Peru, Mexico and Ecuador. Its domestic locations span the nation: Georgia, Florida, Utah, Pennsylvania, New York, California. In 2008, Bland Farms opened a new cross-docking facility in Donna, Texas valued at more than 6 million dollars. 2009 continued the growth and expansion of Bland Farms with the purchase of Zappala Farms, the Empire-Sweets Brand and the construction of Bellville Agri-Solutions, an agricultural fertilizer, chemical and services facility.
I look at that and compare it with buying onions from a farm close to where I live that grows their produce sustainably–no need to use toxins from a fertilizer and chemical facility, and no need to use huge amounts of fossil fuels to ship the produce worldwide. And instead of supporting these multinational companies, many with questionable farming and hiring practices, we can support our local farmers. These are farmers who love their land, take care of it, and are an integral part of our communities. If we support them, they can produce good whole foods for us. And though it may not always be as convenient as grabbing an onion flown in from Peru at Fred Meyer, it just makes sense for us and for the planet. I’m looking forward to buying some onions at the farmers’ market this weekend (see sidebar for times and locations.) I hope to see you there!