Friday, July 16, 2010

Buying Local And Balancing Needs

It wasn't that long ago that I finally started feeling a bit settled about my "buy local" routine. I had figured out what day I needed to go out to the farm store in order to get milk before the gallons of organic whole milk sold out. And I'd found a substitute free-range organic relatively-local egg source after becoming concerned about the cause of the brittle egg shells on the local eggs at the farm store. But recently, I experienced a bit of a setback.

The farm store changed milk suppliers. Previously, we were able to buy gallons of organic whole milk. It came in standard plastic gallon jugs from a creamery a bit north of here in Pennsylvania. I'm not a fan of plastic; but storing multiple glass half gallon jugs in our refrigerator is just not practical. It's also more expensive.

When the farm store switched milk suppliers, they changed to a more local creamery. This outfit has various fancy certifications and shaves a few food miles off the end product. But, for my family, there are a couple problems with this change. The first problem is that milk is now only available in glass half gallons. Also, the price to buy a gallon of milk is now roughly $7.50, compared to the $5.95 for the plastic jug we were previously buying. But there's still another problem. We think the new milk tastes gross. I've never really imagined myself to be a milk connoisseur, but let me tell you, these milks are two completely different beasts.

Now, we had discovered a while ago that the natural food store carries the same brand of milk we had been purchasing from the farm store (which is closer to us). But, the natural food store carries an even smaller quantity of milk than the farm store, and the delivery day is a problem. You see, the natural food store is where I found the eggs I've been buying. But, the delivery day is different for the eggs and the milk, and if you don't get out there on delivery day you don't get what you are after. Plus, the natural food store is farther away. Multiple trips out there each week would burn up a lot of gas.

Honestly, the logistics of buying healthy local food is sometimes daunting. I understand why so many people don't make a serious effort to buy local. It is far more convenient to go to the grocery store and get everything at once, regardless of how it was produced. It's cheaper too. In the short run. But once your eyes are opened to the long-term costs to your health and environment, it's hard to go back to buying standard grocery store fare. Plus, I've become spoiled by the rich tastes of food raised right. I recently purchased grocery store brand organic, "cage-free" eggs in a pinch. They were pale and tasteless and so disappointing.

So far, the "solutions" I've come up with have been less than optimal. I know I'm not the only farm store customer who us unhappy with the change. The farm store is pushing hard to sell the new brand, but I'm hoping that they'll switch back to the previous brand. Until then, my choices seem to be either eggs or milk, or to buy non-local organic milk or eggs at the grocery store.

Sometimes buying local is a balancing act.Maybe it always is. In a strange way, I've come to appreciate the challenge. When I have to work a little more for the food I want to feed my family, I appreciate it a little more. The extra effort makes me think consciously about the food choices I make and is a reminder of why it is important to make these choices. Sure, I'd be quite happy for the process to be easier. But in the mean time, I try to embrace the bumps in the road as opportunities not to be missed. I've come a long way since February!

This post is a participant in Fight Back Friday, generously hosted by Food Renegade.

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  1. OK...this is what I would do. Let the farm store KNOW how unhappy you are with the new milk. Let him know you are NOT buying milk from him anymore, much as you would LOVE to.
    Next, I would talk to the health food store folks and let them know of your predicament. Perhaps if you pre-pay for the milk, they will "hold" it for you until egg day? Or vice versa, whichever works for you.
    And, as much as I prefer buying local, Michigan has pretty lousy wine, so we won't go there. Olive oil? Nope. And shrimp??? HA! So...I do what I can, but I also won't go without certain "necessities"!

  2. Cindy, You are quite right about how to approach this. I have spoken to both stores. I'm sort of wondering if the farm store is somehow related to the new milk source, they're really pushing it hard. And unfortunately, the natural foods store recently STOPPED holding orders for people because it was too much work for them. :( But you're right...we do what we can and need to stop worrying so much about what we can't control.

  3. Are you sure you just don't need more time to accustom yourself to the taste of the milk? Different cows, different seasons, different diets---could that be part of it?

    We bought raw milk for a couple years, at 7.50 a gallon PLUS we had to buy shares into a cow. We've stopped because we're not willing to pay that much money (and one of our monetary sources dried up), but we LOVED the milk (except when I was pregnant and had weird tastebud issues---I didn't drink it then). In fact, some friends told us to pick up their milk while they were on vacation and my son about flipped with joy. "It's the sweet milk!"

    In any case, good luck striking a balance. You're on the right track!

  4. Were the cage free eggs by any chance Sauder's? They're the best of the grocery store eggs, but definitely pale and flavorless yolks compared to nice farm eggs (though I do prefer the white- for some reason I just prefer store whites and farm yolks).

    I'm only curious because you mentioned Pennsylvania, and I'm from Lancaster. :-)

  5. Jennifer Jo, It's possible that we could get used to the new milk, but that wouldn't entirely solve my problem. I still can't pay $7.50 per gallon, and as much as I appreciate the ideas behind the glass jugs, I really don't like using them for a number of reasons. I can see myself going to glass bottles after the kids leave home; but for now, they just are not working for me.

    WordVixen, No, I haven't seen Sauder's eggs here recently. I love Lancaster! Don't get up to that beautiful country often enough though. There's great little used book store The Girl and I like there- in a barn, of course!

  6. I grew up in Ephrata and always took the back roads everywhere. I so miss all the farmland! I really enjoy my Saturday drive out to the Amish natural food store and the Amish farmer's market, though, because that gets me back in the open air. Even if only for a few minutes... :-)

    I'm not familiar with The Girl. I'll have to ask around. Two of my friends in the area are book scouts, and if there's a cool bookstore nearby, they'll know how to find it!

  7. Ha! Sorry about that... The Girl is my daughter. :) We both like the little used book store in a barn. I can't remember the store name. It's a one man operation right next to the owner's home and just off a back road. If I think of the store name I'll shoot you an email.

  8. *lol* Ok, that makes a lot more sense now! :-D I know there's a Baldwin's Book Barn that's about an hour or so away. I don't know of any others that are closer. If you think of it, I'd definitely like to know!

  9. I've been reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle which has really inspired me in the area of locally produced foods. Would the health food store be willing to consider getting gallons of the milk? Getting a larger order? Sounds like they have the business for it. In the end I reckon you need to do what works best for you and your families situation. Maybe new options will open up in the future.

  10. Leigh, I loved AVM! So did The Girl. We talked about that book more than any other we've both read.

    The problem with our natural foods store is it has a tiny refrigerated foods section. Most of the store is shelf upon shelf of processed stuff made with natural or organic ingredients. They do carry milk in gallons, but only a very few gallons! (It's dumb, really) We went out there yesterday and I stocked up on eggs, figuring they would last longer than milk would (and take up less fridge space). Hopefully I'll be able to time my purchases so that I don't run out of one or the other, but... I'm not good at staying that organized for long, so we'll see!