It’s easy to stick with health-food staples year round in our modern world. If apples, spinach, carrots, or oranges are your go-to, then it may be wise to keep them coming through the cold months, for your health’s sake. But what’s the cost? Out-of-season produce is more expensive because it either takes more effort (support often coming from green houses or genetic modification/ GMOs) or it is coming from far away. Have you considered the carbon (or ecological) footprint you are leaving when purchasing imported foods? Consider that, when you pay the extra cost for an out-of-season food, you are likely paying for not only labor and cost of production but also the cost of transportation as well. Gas is expensive these days and a trip on a ship, plane, or in a vehicle gets pricey, not to mention the impact of unneeded pollution. Are you willing to pay an extra dollar more for a Mexican avocado, or an apple from New Zealand?Let’s consider the alternative. Small farming businesses are going under left and right, because the competition of huge produce suppliers is on a steady incline. I feel sad when I consider Mom and Pop shops closing doors because corporate monsters are usurping their business, so supporting locally grown foods is a constant goal of mine. A pro to this practice is that locally grown foods tend to be seasonal, plus organic and non-GMO are trending all over California and other states. So where can we find these local goods?Many health-oriented stores (like Whole Foods, Community Markets, and Oliver’s) have nice big signs indicating where food is produced, and there are other initiatives, like Go Local, which stage additional signage. If you’re really ambitious, you can look at the label – many are more telling than you might be aware! My mind was blown when I learned to decode produce stickers’ numerology (PLU Codes), so here’s a quick list that I find helpful:
- Organic produce has a 5 digit PLU number that begins with the number 9
- Conventional (non-organic) produce has a 4 digit PLU number that begins with the number 4
- Genetically modified (GMO) produce has a 5 digit PLU number that begins with the number 8
One of my favorite ways to buy local is to purchase from the source. If you haven’t been to a local Farmer’s Market in a while, you are overdue. I like to go with an empty stomach so I have room for samples, bring my own cloth shopping bag, and arrive with only as much cash as I’m willing to spend. If you really want to be cost-effective, showing up at the very end means limited pickings but price drops left and right. The Farm Trails website has a complete list of Sonoma County Farmer’s Markets. Other counties have similar resources, which are just a small web search away.
One last tip:
The Resources page on my website has been freshly updated to December’s Supporting Local theme, with a quick guide to California’s produce per season, so check it out! Fun winter recipes, inspiring lectures and reads, and Featured Businesses are also available, and change monthly. Form submissions are super easy to do, so let me know if you have input for monthly blog ideas, want to sign up for a Free Consultation, or have any other questions to ask. I’m Coach Noel, and I have answers.