Megnut

The expense of eating local

Summer is in full swing at the Union Square greenmarket and everything I anticipated all winter has begun to arrive. Sadly though, I'm wondering if I can afford to buy much of it. Here's what I witnessed for sale last Friday: a small basket of heirloom tomatoes for $7, a pint of raspeberries for $7, a quart of cherries for $7, and strawberries for $6 a quart. It's my first summer living in close proximity to the market, and I was astounded by the prices.

I stopped to get some raspberries for a jam I was making; I needed 1 1/4 lbs for their juice. At greenmarket prices that's $21 for the raspberries! Sad that I couldn't afford local berries, I headed to Whole Foods. People complain about the cost at Whole Foods but it seemed cheap in comparison. I was able to buy three pints of California rasperries for $2.98 each.

I really want to support local foods and farmers, but I don't understand greenmarket pricing. Does it really cost the individual farmer that much more to grow raspberries and deliver them a few hours away? Shipping raspberries 3,000 miles from California can't be cheap. Sure Whole Foods has some economies of scale, but I didn't realize they reduced costs by more than 50%. Or maybe I'm disconnected from the true cost of food. Do the prices at the greenmarket actually reflect the costs of producing such food in our area? Or are items at the greenmarket overpriced because it's hip and trendy to buy local food?

No matter what, I feel conflicted and bummed out now. I'd envisioned buying tons of stuff this summer at the market, eating local and supporting regional farmers. I don't like the idea of buying fruit from California when there's fruit to be had from New York. But it's hard to imagine dropping $50 for fruits and vegetables that we'll eat up in two days, especially when I can get the same stuff for half the price elsewhere. Welcome to Megnut's Dilemma.

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