Shopping for produce at a supermarket is convenient. Since you are already there needing to buy another carton of milk, may as well pick up some extra produce --- that is why they put milk at the back after all. This is simple. This is easy. Our lives are busy enough not to spend too much time buying food. You are in, you are out, quick drive home to unload the bags, done for the week.
We want to make this better.
There is nothing wrong with buying produce at the grocery store. The world needs to be fed and supermarkets are everywhere; a short drive away for most. But what if you had a choice? What if you wanted the best, not just what was easy? Thankfully, it is a food revolution and there are other options to try.
Supermarkets were not always around. It wasn’t until 1916 when Clarence Saunders invented the first self-service, Piggly Wiggly. From there, chain stores exploded, making their way into suburban neighbourhoods and becoming the normal way of shopping for food. Before this, not everything was found under one roof. One would visit the butcher for meat, stop at the fruit store for fresh produce and purchase milk from wagons. Even better, most people supplied their own food. In the early 1900s, more than half of Americans were farmers or lived in rural communities. Most of what was consumed was absolutely fresh, locally grown. One would eat what they could grow. I am positive there was not a single Canadian settler who knew what a mango tasted like.
Industrialization hit hard during the World Wars. People were needed for the work force and so, many were freed from the toil of farming. Supermarkets made their debut and people no longer needed to provide for themselves (free parking also made shopping less of a hassle). Because less people were farmers, they sought supermarkets as a reliable source for food and the demand for produce increased. How was this demand met? Mass production.
Food production and processing were introduced at a much larger scale. There was less need for animal and human labour because mechanization made farming simpler. The entire food system became more efficient; it provided enormous amounts of food with minimal amounts of labour. This in turn, lowered prices for consumers. Food industrialization was a win for North America. But the prices in the grocery store do not properly reflect the cost to the public’s health.
The thing most people do not remember is fresh is best. As mentioned in a previous post, the longer produce is alive after harvest, the less nutritious. Before produce reaches the aisles, it suffers through a time of travel. This travel period exposes the produce to heat, light and oxygen, causing degradation of nutrients. The nutritional value of produce is dependent on post-harvest handling. Although most processing plants and transportation vehicles do their best to maintain optimum temperature and humidity, time and exposure are still slow killers for all fruits and vegetables. Produce is typically handled from farm to truck to processing plant to truck to retailer to shopping cart to vehicle to home refrigerator. All of this handling and travel time are exposing produce to the elements. For example, water soluble nutrients such as Vitamin C and Vitamin B are sensitive to light and will degrade the more they are exposed to it.
Given this information, it is easy to see why consumers are wanting to skip these steps and either grow their own food or buy directly from the producer. Farmer’s markets have become popular in the late 1900s. Not only are these markets a great source for fresh produce, but they help improve the local economy. Farmer’s markets have a high multiplier effect. What this means is money circulates more in the local economy before exiting; unlike in supermarkets where revenues immediately leave. Not only that, but the produce one is buying has been handled with care. More often than not, hand picked. Machinery has improved agriculture immensely, but what it lacks is the careful touch of a hand. Machines are not as gentle and may cause damage whereas hand picking is the best way to guarantee bruise free produce. Potatoes are a prime example of this.
Farmer’s markets are an improvement to the industrialized food system, but it doesn’t stop there. Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) was established in 1985. Only recently have CSAs gained momentum as more and more consumers are wanting to support local. It has created a sense of community between farmer and consumer. With a CSA, consumers invest in a share which normally consists of a weekly box of seasonal produce. The best thing about CSAs are being able to try produce that is not normally available in the supermarket. Have you ever shown up to the grocery store expecting to find swiss chard and were unsuccessful after searching up and down, high and low? Farmers try to introduce their clients to a wide variety of vegetables throughout the growing season. This is a great way to be adventurous with your taste buds! The only problem with CSAs are that the consumer takes on a considerable risk. If the season is ruined due to weather or disease, members are not typically reimbursed. Good intentions are present, but it can still be better.
This is what Yetwood Farms hopes to do.
We want to cultivate all positive aspects from every food system. The supermarket is convenient for shopping, but we want to be more convenient by delivering right to your door. Farmer’s markets are great for customization; you choose the fresh produce you want that is in season. With our packages, we want to be flexible with customization. If you don’t like cauliflower, we are not going to force you to take it just because it is included in the package. Finally, CSAs develop relationships between farmer and consumer, but can that relationship be tainted with the risk involved? We don’t want to subject our consumers to the risk of farming. Believe us when we tell you, farming is a risky career full of worry and doubt. It should not be an extra concern for the consumer. You don’t need to be checking the weather reports as much as we do! There is still room for improvement in the food industry and we want to be one of those brave souls who initiate some changes.
We wholeheartedly believe supporting local is beneficial to the economy. Even more so, we believe consuming fresh produce is beneficial to one’s health. We want to connect the two and be part of the food movement that is rolling in like a freight train. With this only being our second year, we have big plans for the future, so bear with us.
Living in the time that we do, most of us can afford to be choosy. We can easily cycle back to the time where most grew their own food or supported farmers directly. An easy choice is shopping at a supermarket, but the better choice, especially for the economy, is to buy local because not everyone has enough space in their backyard to grow their own garden. You can make weekly trips to the farmer’s market or invest in a CSA.
Though we are a start-up and still learning, one thing we can guarantee right now is that all produce is hand picked and delivered within 24 hours of harvest. We hope to be part of another historical food movement that results in beneficial changes to the economy, public health and the environment.