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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Strawberry Economics

A dear friend (uncharacteristically) complained, asking "Why do strawberries have to be so expensive out of season?" "It's not fair that only rich people get strawberries in the winter!" I didn't have much of an answer for her. In my usual style, I'm not so brilliant off the cuff. After a little thought, here's my answer.

I'm pretty sympathetic to the desire for fresh fruit at all times. If you substituted sweet cherries for strawberries, I might be up in arms myself. ;-) We are lucky to live where it is possible to have fresh fruit and veggies year round, almost irregardless of the season. But, there is a price to pay for this, and not all the cost is financial.
(Can you tell I've been reading Kingsolvers "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle?", well worth the time! )

There is a pretty clear reason strawberries and other fruit is more expensive out of season. There is less of it available locally, so supply and demand would easily explain the extra expense. In addition, most of the fresh produce we eat out of season is actually shipped in from elsewhere, where it is in season. So we are paying not only for the food, it's production, harvest, and packaging, we are also paying extra for fuel and man hours to ship it from whatever gorgeous, warm clime it grew in.

Indeed, the money we pay for our food is only a fraction of what the farmer and farm workers who worked so hard to grow it receive. If we want to support safe and healthy food production in our country, thus improve our local economy, our environment, our homeland security, and our own health, there are many things we can do. We can grow our own food, buy locally, use community supported agriculture, frequent farmers markets, and recognize that it is, indeed, a great treat to be able to eat fresh fruit and vegetables year around. (Ya, ya, again with the "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle"! LOL You gotta read the book.)

I grow strawberries in our yard. There is nothing quite like the taste of a vine ripened, sun warmed, fresh picked, strawberry. I'd go pretty far to get one. I'm glad to have some right outside my door. Considering that berries are among the produce most treated with pesticides, growing your own, if possible, is a no brainer. Still, it's not completely without effort. After a day of weeding, mulching and picking, my back feels stiff and tired, my legs can get shaky. I'm lucky, I get to rest when I need to, and I can come and go as I please

Our family doesn't depend upon this physical labor for our livelihood. My gratitude goes out to those whose livelihoods include growing, harvesting and processing our produce.
Thank you for the food I eat, each and every day.

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