The two most common reasons why folks avoid shopping for buying local, Organic meat and veggies are because it is too expensive, and/or it takes too much effort.
I hear ya. Most of us grew up buying all of our food in one trip to the grocery store, and we are accustomed to being able to bargain shop fairly effectively. Today, often times the best prices on food can be found online, and groceries can be delivered right to your door without you leaving the house! Prioritizing local food purchasing can be tough, and if you haven't had a chance yet go read my other recent blog post which addresses the issue of local food being too much effort: Why 'local' is my #1 requirement for buying perishables.
But today we're not talking about why to buy local. Many people sincerely value all that buying local food represents, but truly struggle to fit locally sourced food into their budgets. And one of my favorite lessons learned over the last few months of starting the Portland Eats podcast is that farmers work amazingly hard to make their food affordable to us, the consumers.
5 ways to (actually) afford local meat and veggies:
1. Work trade on a farm
Work trade means that you go work on the farm in exchange for meat or vegetables. Often farms will allow for as little as 1 hour / week or much more than that if you'd like. My favorite example of this is Heart 2 Heart Farms in Sherwood, OR. They have a fantastic work trade program and will even allow you to work extra hours during some parts of the year to build up "farm credit" that you can use later, a wonderful option for those who have seasonal work or short term unemployment.
Not all farms publish work trade information on their website but many farms are open to working out a deal on a case by case basis. If you are interested in work trade, I'd recommend reaching out to a nearby farm directly and asking if they'd be willing to arrange this with you. Get creative: let them know if you have skills in social media, graphic design, or bookkeeping - you don't always have to pull weeds to add value!
Is work trade right for me? Do you have a little extra free time and want to learn about how farms operate? Then, yes!
2. Host a CSA Pickup
Unfamiliar with CSA programs? Read this first. Many farms that offer CSA programs will have pickup sites at various places around the city to make it more convenient for their members. If a farm uses members' homes for pickup sites, they often offer a discount or a free share to the host, because it does involve a few hours per week in organizing the shares and greeting the members.
One Portland farm that offers this is Love Farm Organics, who you can learn more about here. You can find other CSA farms in the Portland area here and anywhere in the country here. I would recommend scrolling through the CSA farms' websites - they usually list pickup information, and if it appears that they offer home pickups, reach out to the farm and ask if they are looking for more pickup sites.
Is CSA pickup hosting right for me? Do you have one evening a week available that you could have neighbors swing by for produce pickups? Then, yes! This is a great option for folks who may have evenings free but have young kids and can't get to a farm as easily.
3. Portlanders: Check out Heart 2 Heart Farms' food pantry
I speak in depth about the food pantry with Tyler and Liz Boggs of Heart 2 Heart Farms in this podcast interview. Their food pantry - Good Neighbor Family Pantry - offers free food to anyone in the community who can swing by their farm in Sherwood, OR. They pickup truckloads of food every week from several grocery stores that is perfectly good, but for a variety of reasons is no longer sellable, and bring it back to the farm to give away for free. Learn more about their pantry here. I will provide the caveat that not all the food is local or Organic, but it very often is.
Is the Good Neighbor Family Pantry right for me? If you are truly in need of free food and want to help reduce grocery waste, and you can get yourself to Sherwood, OR, then yes! You can always give back by donating money or time to the pantry efforts.
4. Buy in bulk at peak season and store it well
This is a wonderful tip from Joel Salatin's fantastic book Folks, This Ain't Normal. The best opportunity to spend less money on local produce is to buy a product in bulk when it is at peak season and the farmer has this coming out of their ears. Common examples are tomatoes, zucchini, and berries, but really it can be anything!
Go to your farmers' market and ask each one if they have excess of any produce that you could buy in bulk for a discount. Then bring it home and find a way to store it that preserves it: canning, freezing, making tomato sauce, fermenting... the list goes on. A great Portland resource for learning how to preserve and getting supplies for it is Homestead Supply Co and Nourished Kitchen is a great resource for all things fermented.
Is buying in bulk and storing right for me? Are you looking for a new kitchen challenge? Then, yes! This does not need to involve an ongoing time commitment, even one weekend day could get you a long way on preserving your own food.
5. Pay w/SNAP at Farmers' Markets and for CSA shares
SNAP is Oregon's food stamps program, and a lot of excellent progress has been made to ensure these food dollars are stretched as far as possible at farmers' markets and in CSA shares. There is a matching program in place called Double Up Food Bucks so that for each visit $10 from SNAP shoppers = $20 in Portland Farmer's Market tokens, and work is being done to expand the program further. There are also farms that offer discounted CSA shares via the Double Up Food Bucks Program, such as Love Farm Organics.
Can the Double Up Food Bucks program help me? Are you on the SNAP program and looking for ways to buy more local produce? Then, yes!
The more I talk with farmers about the flexible options they offer consumers to buy directly from them, the more I learn that local produce and meat are affordable to just about anyone. Buying locally requires intention, creativity, and a willingness to change up our habits, but for those who are really committed, there is always a way!