Eat With Your Head

The global food chain in your backyard
August 12, 2008, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This Sunday I experienced firsthand the absurdities of the global food system, all within walking distance from my home. First I went to my neighborhood (Takoma Park)’s farmer’s market, which is celebrated in the DC area, and it’s easy to see why. Among the vegetables I saw the first time in my life were green and white eggplant and hot peppers of assorted colors and sizes. There was even okra, which I plan on using this week to make one of my favorite Gujarati dishes. I’ll share the recipe upon consultation with my mom.

Obviously though, farmer’s markets aren’t cheap. One bulb of garlic cost $1.50, for example. I later crossed into Langley Park, a neighborhood heavily populated by immigrants.

I encountered my food dilemna at a Bangladeshi grocery in the area. It was selling a pack of 5 garlic bulbs for 99 cents. I would have had to spend $7.50 to get that much garlic at the farmer’s market. Not only were they selling more garlic for less money, but consider where the garlic came from. Location unknown – it could possibly have been local, but it also could have come in from California. It seems to me that just the fact alone that that we don’t know where the garlic is originally from should add to the price of the garlic.

I know a common rationale for this price discrepancy would be that farmer’s markets is a niche service for rich people to socialize and feel good about themselves. While I can’t deny that’s true, the fact is that we all used to shop like that. They’re throwbacks to a simpler way of producing and selling food.

Hopefully, though, we will reach a point where local farmers do not have to charge five times as much for garlic.

2 Comments so far
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In response to:
“I know a common rationale for this price discrepancy would be that farmer’s markets is a niche service for rich people to socialize and feel good about themselves.”

Additional rationale for the price discrepancy is economies of scale: the 5 bulbs for 99 cents are likely from a factory farm whereas the local farmer needs to charge $1.50 per bulb since he/she is producing far less but still has certain fixed costs. Plus the cost of production is likely to be less at a factory farm employing lower wage workers.

Comment by Pavan

It is VERY likely that the packet of garlic is not coming from the US at all but actually from China!!!! A greater percentage than any of us would care to know about of this product comes from China. Buy it from your neighbor, because like it r not, that is much closer to the actual cost of production. peace

Comment by Tricia

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