Part of our program is to eat locally until the end of January, which is why we are calling ourselves “locavores.” (Unfortunately we didn’t come up with that name, it’s been around for a while.) As anyone who likes to eat locally, especially organically, knows, this can be very expensive. For example, most things at Whole Foods are a lot pricier than Walmart. This is because when buying from a local farm, the consumer is usually paying for the ethical treatment of animals, sustainable farming practices to maintain the soil, and more human labor as opposed to large machines and pesticides. All of this is done by small, family owned and run farms, not huge agri-business companies that cut cost in almost every way possible. (This cheaper option may seem like a good idea until you learn about the conditions of animals, wages of farm hands, and all the chemicals that are used.) When buying organic, the price goes up even more to cover crop loss due to pests and other problems that arise when not using chemical weeding practices.
Luckily for us, the BFJYAV program board built money into our budget for eating locally, especially through the winter. You’re probably thinking, “Libby, nothing grows in Massachusetts in the winter time.” And you’d be right. Besides some winter squash and kale (which isn’t saying much), most of the produce stops growing here by the beginning of December.
This is why my roommates and I are in the process of getting as much produce as possible, on our budget, to freeze, can, or in some way preserve for the winter months (it makes me feel like we’re back in Pilgrim times.) So far we have a few jars of raspberry jam and canned peaches. This past Saturday my roommate Alex and I set out on a mission to find bulk produce to store for the winter. Instead of going to any of the many farmers markets in town, we wanted to go to an actual farm or farm stand to inquire about getting B-grade produce seconds that would be a cheaper and more viable option for us.
The only difficulty is that neither of us have a car in Boston, but we both have unlimited T passes (Boston public transportation.) We researched farms near-by that we could get to by bus with a 30 minute walk. Oddly enough, for whatever reason most buses don’t go out to farms. (Also frustrating, one train that would take us out to a few farms was being worked on, and doesn’t run on the weekends.)
We took 3 bus rides, one train ride, walked for about an hour, and only made it to 2 farms. We had to plan our day by what time a certain bus left, which meant we needed to catch another bus to get to the train station at the right time to get a train to that bus. We had a few close calls (which involved jogging a few times with a backpack of raspberries) but we always made it.
We didn’t have much success, and at the end of the day we had few pints of raspberries and sore feet to show for our efforts. It was an intense, exhausting day of walking, picking fruit, and comparing prices to see what we could afford. It was a good lesson about eating local and healthy food on a budget and using public transportation, which is the reality for many in Boston and around the world.