By Pamela Denholm
The most important things to us at SSO is supporting our local growers, and local community at large. Like many of our customers, we live on a budget and have to make careful purchasing decisions to make ends meet, and we are constantly balancing our food values and ethics with the bottom line: how much does it cost? I have reached a point where I have stopped comparing prices of local and organic food to imported or mass produced food, because at the end of the day, there is no comparison, its apples and oranges. Firstly, we have managed to transition to almost all local/organic food without going broke, and secondly the true cost of ‘buying cheap’ comes at a price I really don’t want to pay – loss of liquidity, jobs (and personality) where I live, not to mention the environmental and health tallies.
This came to the fore again when I stopped in at a grocery store the other day and saw cranberries on special. They were from Wisconsin, who for nearly 20 years has been the biggest cranberry producers in the country. “That’s nice,” you may say, “good for them!” And it is good for them, around 3,500 jobs are created and it is their largest fruit crop bringing hundreds of thousands of dollars into the state each year. Regrettably, as with every story there is a flip side . . . the Wisconsin crop ‘floods’ the local market where land and labor are more expensive, making it more challenging for our own cranberry growers to gain traction in the space – cranberry bogs are a part of the New England cultural landscape, fall wouldn’t be fall without apples, pumpkins, foliage, and cranberry bogs in harvest. And here are a few other things to think about:
- The berries in your basket are of a far superior standard, they are picked dry, sorted by hand, and packed dry, giving us an excellent quality berry with longevity. The Wisconsin berries are wet picked by flooding the bogs, and then dried for packaging. The wet pick method bruises these beautiful red orbs, and leaves us with an inferior fruit
- Cranberries are good for you! They are very high in fiber and vitamin C, and also boast Vitamins A, E and K and are low in cholesterol and sodium. The fresher the berry, the more nutritious, and local berries are absolutely fresher
- Environmentally speaking, the unmeasured cost of the carbon foot print (1200 miles vs 20 miles) should be factored
- Our farmers, our neighbors, employ neighbors. If we want unemployment to go down in our state, we need to support local businesses and farmers. You only need to spend a third of the money with a local business to have the same impact within your community as spending with a big box chain store when it comes to liquidity and jobs.
Our cranberry growers are sitting on a wonderful harvest this year and call me romantic, but I love seeing the bogs in our landscape, they belong, and I also love the idea that it was grown right here in New England – talk about tradition and heritage! I am proud of this culture. We will continue to buy local berries, at a price that is fair to our farmer for as long as he has them available, and we can do that because our customers know the value of the product they are getting. They know too that the people employed to pick and screen the berries live within our community, and their children go to the same schools as our children. Here on the South Shore, we are a community with pride, we work together and we live together, we have soul. Cheap berries from Wisconsin may put an extra dollar back in our pockets, but our berries are worth so, so much more and they are better for us in every way.