Friday, August 7, 2009

The Cost of Food

Yesterday, a well-to-do couple drove up to the berry patch and wanted to pick saskatoon berries. That's always a good thing on a saskatoon berry farm, so I sent them off to the best trees, in the aisles I keep mowed and clean, where the walking is easy and the berries hang off the branches like grapes.

About an hour later they returned to the house and noted that ours were the biggest, juiciest, sweetest saskatoons they'd ever eaten. Of course, being the one who spends hours and hours between those aisles, planting and mowing grass, keeping out the weeds and pruning the branches back, I am always 'proud as punch' to hear people tell me how much they like our saskatoons.

We love them, too, and though they don't really make us any money, they provide us with juice, wine, jams and pie filling we enjoy all year long... and share with the people we care about.

But before I could feel too proud of myself, the man asked me if I would get all the berries off the trees. I told him that it was too big a job. We have 5,000 trees and more than 50% never gets picked. It's sad but true and it bothers me. I still hope people in the city will recognise the goodness of local food and start coming in larger numbers. And they have been, but there are still more berries than we can pick.

I could have a mechanized berry picker, but it's tough on the trees--and to be honest--they're just too darn expensive. I do make deals with the local Hutterites where they pick a pail for themselves and a pail for me (which we freeze and use all year long). But for the most part, the birds and coyotes are the recipients of a large part of my berries.

The man then proposed that since so many berries were going to dry up on the branches, that I should give him a discount.


It was logic that just didn't figure to me. If he bought an equal amount of blueberries from the supermarket, they would cost him more than the fresh berries he had in his bucket. The supermarket berries would profit the chain store and some distant shareholder. They might have been chemically treated with herbicide or pesticide... and they were certainly trucked over a thousand kilometres to get to the store.

Buying my saskatoons keeps every cent in his own community. It helps keep this little orchard going and part of our community. What he had in that bucket was more than berries. In that pail was the toil and love of a family... volunteerism in the community... fresh food grown by a neighbour who supports a family with the small amount those berries provide.

Well, I guess I kind of frowned when I told him that I DO give a large portion of my berries away for free... to the birds and coyotes who share this land with us... but for him, it was $10 an ice-cream bucket. He harumphed, got his wallet out and grudgingly paid me.

I think I'm happier when I see purple coyote droppings, packed with saskatoon seeds than when I have to deal with a clod in a nice car who wants the fruits of nature and my toil for free. The coyote is less a scavenger.

Someday guys like him will learn the true value of food. Someday, what I know about growing food will be worth something to the people who think meat comes in cellophane packs and juice pools in tetra packs.

When that day comes, I might just choose to share with the coyotes and birds rather than help feed morons like that.

1 comment:

  1. What a dick that guy sounds. I'm surprised you didn't empty the bucket over his head!

    Well done on starting the blog, buddy.