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Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving Preparations

Unfortunately, we didn't harvest anything from our own garden this week, but I did wanted to share our Thanksgiving plans and the local harvests that we have available to us. So, this Harvest Monday comes from harvests found at our local farmers market and market stores. See more harvests over at Daphne's Dandelions Harvest Monday.

What have we gotten ourselves into? Over the last several months, we have been becoming more conscious about what we eat. We've always been somewhat healthy eaters; but now, we are paying attention to things like hormones in milk, genetically modified corn, antibiotics in poultry, food being shipped in from other countries, businesses can write off the cost of shipping food giving them incentive to purchase from out-of-country instead of from up-the-street, how the food industry has become a big business narrowing availability to varieties that are easy to mass produce and holds up well in shipping even if they are the blandest available, etc... I could go on and on.

So we really are changing our eating habits. So much so, that we started a garden this year. We would like to come up with a New Year's resolution that is realistic. We could try to go 100% local like others have. We could try 100% organic. Or we could do 100% local and organic. 100% excludes what we would consider exotic foods like salmon or bananas. That food that is only available in certain parts of the country/world.

Over the last few months, we have gone from farm to farm, market to market, CSA to co-op trying to find a good local source for all of our needs. Yes, we have searched high and low, far and wide. But what is realistic for a goal in the new year? We decided to let Thanksgiving be our dry run. Let's see what is available locally and organic. I know it is November and we are not at the height of harvest season, but if we were to make a goal for the new year, we would have to meet that goal in November.

So our plan was to go to the Dallas Farmer's Market, Whole Foods, a local market store, and Sprouts. At the beginning of the day, our goal was to do 100% local and organic food. Well, by midday we were trying to decide which we should give up: local or organic. We decided to give up local. We felt that organic was more important to us for several reasons, but that we will still try for local. Foods that aren't too tainted by chemical sprays (or have been genetically modified, fed hormones, etc) we would give local the nod. So by the end of the day, our goal was to buy 100% organic, local where possible.

What brought us to this point? Well, you'd think it was the sugar or flour or something like that. Nope, here in Texas we have those local brands. It was potatoes, celery, and turnip greens that brought us to this point. Yes, the farmer's market was humming with all of these items, but none of it was organic. I figured that perhaps some of them used organic methods and just couldn't advertise as organic because they weren't certified. So I asked some and the answer was no. One hadn't a clue what I was talking about, but I figured he was just there to sell the produce. So I have everything I need local and organic, but no veggies. SMH. It was time to compromise. So organic won over local. Our thought is, perhaps as organic sell increase, more local farmers will convert to organic. Not that I am looking for the certification, just the methods.

So after a day of running from here to there, this is our loot...should be enough for a Thanksgiving feast.
Organic milk, Grass fed meat, organic flours (Arrowhead Mills of Texas; some grain grown in Colorado though), shown with wild-caught Gulf shrimp and home canned tomato sauce and zucchini relish. Various other organic vegetables are shown as well. The eggplant are from our garden!
Organic sugar (a line made by Imperial Sugar of Texas, cane grown in LA), most everything else is organic but not local. Except those sweet potatoes and broccoli. I am proud of those. There was one farmer at the market that grew organically and this is what we had left. He was out of turnip greens :(. The squash are from my garden.
Finally, the frozen stuff -- purple hull peas, banana peppers, spinach, zucchini --- is from our garden, the apples, potatoes, and onion are all organic but not local, and the turkey is cage-free and not local. I figure that cage-free, no preservatives, no antibiotics, no hormones was acceptable. Any grain feed may not have been organic, but a roaming bird will have its share of organic meals (grass). But it was either this or no turkey. No one at the farmer's market had a turkey that wasn't already sold. Just FYI, organic turkeys were running $4.5 - $6 per pound if you ordered one.

Can you believe this? I found organic locally grown and made olive oil and I couldn't find organic locally grown celery or cabbage or turnip greens or bell peppers or onion or .....

Collard greens purchased from my church's co-op garden! Organic and Local!

I'll share our preparations later in the week. But until then, check out the chart that I made below. It shows each item that I bought for our Thanksgiving meal; how much that item cost local and organic, not local-but organic, local but not organic, neither local nor organic. This chart upset me some; we paid $75 more. I mean, I understand that it costs more to allow a cow/chicken to roam and have space to do so than it does to raise them in an overcrowded warehouse. I understand there is more risk with organic crops and more precautions have to be made. I know small farmers have small profit margins, etc..., but some of the prices (by comparison) seem very out-of-whack. And I am not just talking organic, some of the local food costs a lot more than nonlocal food. I am not going to pretend to know why; I'm just upset that it costs so much more. It almost cost us double to buy organic and we can't afford that month after month - that is the bottom-line, no matter how much we want to.

So what have we learned: organic food is not widely available here, organic food can cost the same or twice as much as nonorganic, local food at the farmer's market can cost more or less - just be careful, a basket of tomatoes for $4 sounds good until you realize that there is only 4 small tomatoes in the basket. Buying local could mean having very little to pick from. The local tent at the market was not even half full; several local farmers talked about how their fall crops were delayed or ended by the drought.....the drought that we're just now starting to get relief from. Buying organic is sometimes harder than buying local; due to demand or the ability to advertise as organic.

So what do we do? Buying local is unsustainably costly, buying organic isn't always an option...neither is buying local for that matter. Possible answer: grow more food. The best resource for local, organic food may be our own backyard. We've got about one-month to figure it out. We're not giving up. Pay a little more for healthier food now, or a lot more for prescription drugs later. That's what I say.

The underlined cost is what we paid.

categoryitemfromBothOrganicLocalNeitherPaidif Min is Paid
condimntbrn sugar 1.5#TX $       4.39  $       3.99  $       1.67  $        4.39  $               1.67
condimntHoneyTX $       4.99  $       3.99  $        4.99  $               3.99
condimntpstry flour 2#TX $       2.00  $       2.40  $       2.29  $        2.00  $               2.00
condimntSugar 2#TX $       5.19  $       3.99  $       2.29  $        5.19  $               2.29
condimntwht flour 2#TX $       2.99  $       2.40  $       2.29  $        2.99  $               2.29
dairybutterCA $       3.50  $       2.50  $        3.50  $               2.50
dairyeggs (farmer)TX $       4.50  $       3.89  $       1.50  $        4.50  $               1.50
dairyeggs (sprouts)TX $       9.00  $       8.42  $       1.50  $        8.42  $               1.50
dairyMilkTX $       6.00  $       6.00  $       2.69  $        6.00  $               2.69
meatchickenTX $    19.50  $    12.95  $       6.45  $      19.50  $               6.45
meatlean grnd beef (5#)TX $    24.00  $    25.00  $    18.45  $      24.00  $            18.45
meatroastTX $    13.56  $    14.00  $       9.98  $      13.56  $               9.98
meatshrimpLA $    12.99  $       8.99  $    12.99  $       5.99  $        8.99  $               5.99
meatturkeyUSA $    58.37  $    19.00  $       6.37  $      19.00  $               6.37
producebroccoliTX $       6.00  $       6.00  $       3.00  $        6.00  $               3.00
produceCabbage $       2.50  $       3.00  $        2.50  $               2.50
producecelery $       3.00  $       4.00  $       1.54  $        3.00  $               1.54
producecrnbry (8 oz)CA $       3.69  $       2.00  $        3.69  $               2.00
produceFuji ApplesWA $       3.99  $       6.00  $       3.87  $        3.99  $               3.87
produceBell Pepper-2 $       3.00  $       4.00  $       0.98  $        3.00  $               0.98
producepotatoOR $       5.00  $       8.00  $       1.35  $        5.00  $               1.35
produceRed Onion 3#CA $       2.99  $       5.36  $       1.47  $        2.99  $               1.47
produceswt potatoesTX $       3.75  $    10.35  $       3.75  $       2.03  $        3.75  $               2.03
produceturnip greensTX $       5.78  $       6.00  $       3.54  $        5.78  $               3.54
producewhl mshrmsCA $       3.69  $       5.00  $       2.00  $             -    $               2.00
 $    166.73  $            91.94
 $            74.79


  1. Very interesting post! Yup, definitely grow more vegetables.

  2. I love the 100 foot diet best! 100 feet from my back door! :D Actually we go in priorities:

    1) grow all of our own vegetables - eat seasonally or from our own preserved items (yes that means we do not have fresh tomatoes for many months of the year).
    2) buy organic and local. We define local as a 250 mile radius of our home which includes the grain growing and fruit growing regions in our state.
    3) buy organic
    4) buy fair trade for exotics

    Enjoy your holiday feast! You have some great food.

  3. Sustainably Modern11/21/11, 10:36 AM

    Thanks for the ideas. I agree with you both; we'll have to expand next year. This was our first year gardening so we only tried a few things with great success. So next year, we'll do more. I also have to improve preserving and storind food.

    Anymore ideas out there? Keep them coming!

  4. Wow, that is costly. I know a lot of organics cost more than conventional; you might try out Bountiful Baskets I blogged about them here; http://edible-garden.blogspot.com/2011/11/bountiful-baskets.html, they do have an organic option though it costs extra.

    In the meantime beef up your soil and grow more! Have you seen what the Dervaes can do on a tenth of an acre? 6,000+ pounds of food a year! amazing!http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/

  5. You sound a lot like me! Our family decided to eat better, especially organic, natural foods. Boy has that been difficult at times! We have relaxed a bit because it was just getting too difficult driving around all the time (especially since I homeschool and work from home!). That is one of the reasons we decided to put more into growing our own next year. Good luck on the decisions you make. Please let us know what you decide.


  6. Really interesting post - I wonder if its because grains and olives etc are easier to produce organically? or maybe because they have a longer shelf life the producer can afford to wait for someone to pay the premium for them? Or maybe something else entirely - I think that I would have the reverse problem if I tried the same exercise here.

  7. Once you get started it will get easier and easier each year. You will learn cheaper places to get what you need,and you'll grow more. It is like anything else, once you are aware, you see it everywhere. You did this all at once, without knowledge of where to find the best food and when to get it, so it cost you more...this time.

  8. Very interesting post, thanks for sharing your ideas. Growing some of your own produce can help.