One of my July goals was to buy produce only from the farmer's market. I'll be the very first to say that in Southern California, we have it easy. Our summer farmer's market carries a large variety of fruits and vegetables. Buying only from the market (that we're lucky enough to have set up across the street every Sunday) was not going to be difficult by any means.
We succeeded on this goal with the exception of the jalapenos we purchased from Trader Joe's (that were grown in Mexico) for our jalepeno vodka. Each Sunday, we bought a bunch of fruit and veggies and a carton of eggs that come from a farm in Fillimore (about 30 miles away) where the hens are free range.
I got a few questions on the blog when I first announced this plan and on instagram as I shared my haul each week. What did I consider local? What was the mile radius? How much did this cost? What would I do if my market only sold tomatoes and onions?
I am not, nor would I ever pretend to be, an expert on any of this. I am absolutely not attempting anything new or breaking any ground. I am also not trying to praise or blame anyone else's methods - I can only share my own experience.
We spent $180 for five weeks (five Sundays) on produce and eggs to feed our family of two. That's about $2.57 a day per person. (For the record, we both normally eat three meals a day at home and we went out for lunch or dinner six times in July.) I wish I knew what we were spending on just produce and eggs in previous months to compare, but I don't have that breakdown. We still went to the grocery store about every five days, but I loved that I didn't have to even look at the produce section or worry about what was on sale or what looked good. Without produce, our grocery spending went to dairy (cheese, butter, sour cream, greek yogurt, milk and half & half), cereal, chicken, turkey sausage, tortillas, some canned goods (which is technically a cheat, because we buy crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and olives in cans) and basics like olive oil, spices & flour. (We buy our non-local coffee beans and grass fed beef from Shasta, CA at the farmer's market every few weeks.)
With this project, I chose not to get caught up in what the mile radius was, though we did start asking each stand where their produce came from and most was within 40 miles. I really tried to pay attention to what was in season and plentiful. My biggest take away from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (the book that started all of this) is that food that is grown during its natural season and is eaten shortly after it's harvested tastes better. After this experiment (and my backyard tomatoes) I absolutely agree.
As with anything else, I think the biggest mistake that can be made is thinking this is an all or nothing situation. You (and I) don't have to only shop local. You (and I) don't have to only eat what's at the farmer's market. I fear that sometimes people (including myself) get discouraged and don't do anything because doing everything is too difficult. I really think it should be the opposite of that. Little improvements need not be discounted. Instead, they should be celebrated.
Our plan going forward is to continue buying most of our produce at the market. I am so curious to see how our options (and weekly photos!) change as we enter new seasons.