Life is a series of trade-offs, a fact of which I am acutely aware every time I go grocery shopping. It always seems that I’m trading off between being green, cost, and convenience. Do I buy produce at the farmers’ market or the supermarket? What’s in season or what my kids will actually eat? Grass-fed beef, wild-caught fish, free-range chicken? And the non-PC question, pre-packaged chips for lunches (can’t just grab a few chips as a between-meal snack) vs. packing chips into reusable “Tupperware-like” containers (they never fit very well). And don’t say not to buy chips – I have no problem giving my kids reasonable-sized portions of chips if the rest of their lunch is healthy.
In response to reading Michael Pollan’s “In Defense of Food,” and seeing the movie Food, Inc., I decided to do all my shopping at the farmers’ market and Trader Joe’s this week. (Full disclosure – I had already bought toilet paper, chips, bread, and coffee at Costco the day before, so I had some of the essentials covered.)
I am lucky enough to have a farmers’ market within walking distance of my house every Sunday morning. I am also lucky enough to live in Southern California, where we have farmers’ markets all year long. I love going to the farmers’ market. I always run into people I know – it reaffirms my sense of community. Although to be honest, I run into people I know at the supermarket and Trader Joe’s too, I just feel more sanctimonious about it at the farmers’ market.
Michael Pollan tells us to shake hands with the person who grows our food. You can only do that at the farmers’ market. I know I’m buying local, the produce is grown in a sustainable manner, and most importantly, it tastes much better than supermarket produce. There’s no packaging, and I bring my own bags so I don’t even have to use their plastic bags. It’s a lovely and healthy way to spend a Sunday morning.
The problem is that it takes a long time. Even when I have a list, I have to figure out which farmer sells what. Which of the many strawberry stands should I buy from? Does the farmer selling lettuce have tarragon? Should I get my onions here or from the next guy? It’s time consuming. And this is just to buy produce. If I’m lucky, I can buy the rest of my groceries at Trader Joe’s (which thankfully, is right by the farmers’ market) but sometimes I still have to go to the supermarket too.
So on the trade-off scale, the farmers’ market wins in terms of greenness and quality but loses on the convenience factor, if convenience is measured by time spent on food shopping. But I think it’s worth it for now. Gandhi says, “be the change you want to see,” or something along those lines. Even if my buying sustainable produce won’t change the world, it’s a step in the right direction. And personally, I’m not helping to support the type of farming that I don’t want to see. (Although I just couldn’t do the $7 a pound grass-fed ground beef. Considered it but couldn’t. Just felt wrong. It’s ground beef, for goodness sake!)
While it would be nice to end this blog posting with the quote from Gandhi, I must recount my farmers’ market star sighting. This is LA, after all. I saw Jane Lynch. Yes, Jane Lynch who plays Sue Sylvester in Glee and who has also been in The Forty Year Old Virgin, Julie and Julia, Talladega Nights, Best in Show, and lots of other stuff. I never recognize anyone, but she’s six feet tall and I love her. Also I made my daughter do reconnaissance to make sure. So now I really love the farmers’ market! Although I did see Richard Dreyfuss in Ralph’s and he even took my cart by mistake….