Thursday, December 25, 2008

Food: Everywhere but here

I hope everyone is enjoying the holidays.  It's still snowing up here and my car is buried (again) so we won't be going to my mom's place today either.  We'll meet up sometime this weekend, I imagine.  

Moody mentioned in comments that some folks on the coast have lost access to some perishables because trucks can't make it over the passes.  I had a report from Bend from my sister-in-law that grocery stores had run out of some basics like sugar.  It makes me wonder how long a city system can be supported by local warehouses.  

I know during the reign of communism in the Czech Republic, running out of things was usual.  The system of supply was notoriously poor, and some things like fresh produce were horrendously expensive (possibly because they were difficult to ship.)  I remember the package of four peaches, carefully wrapped, with a price tag of (U.S. dollar equivalent) $40 on it.  Yikes.  So, how much do you like peaches?

There's a price to pay when you don't have a direct local supply.  Can the Tillamook dairy sell directly to grocery stores?  They're still milking and bottling.  I'm betting that they're required by contract to ship in certain quantities in certain directions.  To change that would be a breach of contract.  It's just a guess, but that may have something to do with the lack of milk in coastal grocery stores right now.  Contracts.  

I don't expect that the way we handle contracts and shipping will change very much.  There are some buy local movements out there.  Fuel costs have pressured a rethink of how we do business.  Why do I find foreign-grown oranges in the store instead of Californian or Florida oranges anyway?  Why can't I find a single brand of canned Hawaiian pineapple at any price?

Don't get me wrong.  I like the bananas I get from Ecuador.  I'm a little iffy about the pesticides some foreign countries allow, but hey, bananas have thick peels.  The point is, I don't think there's anything intrinsically wrong with buying stuff from overseas.  I do think that as a nation we should give preference, or at least make available, products that are closer to home.

If anyone knows where I can get Hawaiian pineapple, let me know!  Maybe the Whole Foods Market has some ...


sophie said...

When I visited England, everyone there told me how wonderful the Scottish strawberries were! (the only ones I'd ever eaten grew in my own garden.)

There's a scary amount of legislation and profiteering around the transportation of food.
Did you notice how the 'World Food Crisis' has suddenly come off the headlines and world prices (of dairy anyway) have plummeted back down?
But the reality of getting adequate food to people hasn't changed. Just it's not hot news anymore.

I've never worked out the difference, but I know a major component of what I take from the business right now is going on food. I suspect my food costs now are around 150% what they were three years ago.
And being on the ground as a producer, I know that farmers aren't seeing that increase.

Kami said...

I'm hoping as a result more local producers like you will get the chance to offer 'shares' and similar things that will get food to local people inexpensively. That way maybe food will be less expensive *and* the producers will have a bigger share. In theory, anyway.

It's a crazy dream, but hopefully one that will lead to a better world!