We all know that eating local can help save on oil used for transport. What you may not know is that often you can get organic food by buying local, but at a cheaper price. This is because in order for farms to label food organic, they must keep extensive documentation and have their farms inspected. These extra steps cost money, and thus, cost you money too. Many local farmers practice organic techniques, but cannot legally sell you USDA certified organic food, because they cannot pay the certification costs.
A fun way to eat local and save even more money is to go to a pick-your-own (PYO) farm. The prices for PYO crops are quite a bit lower than grocery store prices, often about half, mostly because you are doing all of the labor. If you are so fortunate to live close enough to walk or bike to a PYO farm, you will reach eco-conscious zen. If not, it’s still a great time for a weekend activity.
When you arrive at the farm, they give you a container, and you go out into the fields to pick your own crops. The best picking is usually found furthest from the entrance, so take the time to walk there. The fruit is so ripe and delicious-looking, it’s hard to resist eating while picking. Most farmers will look the other way for just a taste, but don’t go overboard. When you are finished, you pay per pound what you have collected. The best part, aside from being fun and cheap, is that you are assured to get the best quality fruit, because you hand pick every single piece of it.
Popular PYO crops include strawberries, raspberries, currants, gooseberries and green beans because they are easy and fun to pick. Berries freeze quite well, so you don’t have to worry about picking too many, and frozen, they make great smoothies. You can often buy other produce that has already been picked for reasonable prices, and at some farms, even eggs and milk. Presumably, you could do a large portion of your shopping there for less than it would cost at the grocery store.
http://www.pickyourown.org is a good place to start looking for farms that will let you PYO. It lists locations all over the world and also notes if they are organic or follow organic practices.
Image credit: Derek E. Moulton