Strawberries Are a Bargain at Any Price!

Guest Post by Michelle Mather

This year, for the first time in the 13 years we’ve been living here, we actually had a crop of strawberries from our own garden! We’ve been trying to grow strawberries for years. We would buy a bunch of plants, prepare the soil, plant them and dream about the delicious strawberries that we would be enjoying in a year or two.

Inevitably though we would get busy with other things and the strawberry patch would be neglected. The weeds would take over and we would forget to water and our strawberry plants would wither away before ever producing any fruit. It was frustrating and no matter how often we planted new plants and committed to look after them, time after time we ended up with dead strawberry plants.

In the last couple of years Cam replanted our berry patch and enlisted my help to keep an eye on them. We both dutifully weeded and watered as necessary and Cam put down a thick layer of straw to help keep the weeds down. This year we enjoyed quart after quart of delicious strawberries and we have a renewed sense of commitment to continue to nurture our strawberry patch.

Near the end of the strawberry season, when our patch was no longer producing, I happened to be in our local grocery store and noticed that they were selling local strawberries. They were also selling strawberries from somewhere in the U.S. for less than half the price of the local ones! Needless to say the local ones looked and smelled so much better that I gladly paid $4.50/quart and bought two quarts.

A woman standing next to me was also looking at the strawberries. She said “Isn’t it horrible what they are selling these local berries for? It’s robbery!”

I turned to her and asked “Have you ever grown strawberries?” She said “No” and so I assured her that I had been trying to grow my own for years and so I had a good idea of just how much work is involved with growing them and that I was thrilled to be able to buy some, at any price! She didn’t respond but just hurried away and probably assumed that I was the local crackpot!

I think too many of us are so removed from the origins of our food that we just don’t have a clue how lucky we are to eat as well as we do! Until you have spent some time planting and weeding and watering and protecting your crop from bugs and wildlife, you will never know just how much time and effort and hard work goes into producing food.

Last Saturday Cam and I set up a stand in our local town to sell our excess produce. We always grow way too much and we’ve always just given it away to friends and neighbours. This year we decided to sell our excess. We enjoy growing food and it will be nice to earn something in return for our hard work. But as I stood in my pea patch, rubbing my aching back, I was thinking about what price I would be able to get for my peas and realizing just how undervalued food is. If we kept track of the time spent growing our various crops and then factor in the time spent harvesting, packaging and selling them, I am sure we would be appalled at the abysmal return on our investment. Luckily we aren’t in it for the money and gardening has always been something that we both just enjoy doing.

The other thing that amazes me is how little of our disposable income we spend on food here in North America, especially compared to other countries. There’s a great chart here;

http://www.ers.usda.gov/briefing/cpifoodandexpenditures/data/2006table97.htm

that compares the percent of household income spent on food consumed at home, by various countries in 2006.

Americans spend roughly 6-7% of their disposable income on food. Canadians spend a bit more – roughly 9%. At the bottom of the chart you’ll find countries like Pakistan where people spend almost 46% of their income on food! What a huge discrepancy!

Too often I overhear people at grocery stores grumbling about the price of food. I don’t think we know how lucky we are!

6 Responses to “Strawberries Are a Bargain at Any Price!”

  • CJ:

    I think what a lot of people, who scoff at the price of locally grow food, don’t realize is they are seeing the true price of food. The cheap stuff is cheap because of the subsidies agri-business receives – whether in real dollars, cheap energy, or rules regulations and tariffs.

    Granted there are some who sell “local” food at outrageous prices playing on peoples perception that more expensive means better. Buying produce from a national wholesaler and then selling it at a roadside side stand, is not local food – in my mind anyway.

  • Mark:

    Susan, don’t kill yourself trying to fix the existing soil. Google Square Foot Gardening and make your own perfect soil!

  • In an effort to become more self sufficient and depend less on oil we put a garden in when we moved into our house two years ago. Two years and we are still killing ourselves just trying to get the soil to even look like decent soil. It is producing some things but not without a lot of coaxing. It would be easier and cheaper to just go buy the stuff at the store however I just can’t seem to do it without thinking about the petroleum, chemicals, and GMO seed it took to do it. I have to buy some things but I will get there eventually.

  • You can pretty much double the price for strawberries here in SW BC, and that’s on the roadside fruit stands, sold by the growers. I spend a lot more that 9% on food here in a region that grows a ton of stuff.

  • I couldn’t agree more Stacey! Even when Cam and I lived in the city we paid a premium to buy locally- and organically grown produce from a farmer that we came to know.

  • StaceyG:

    Thanks for the insight into food prices from a producer standpoint! Over the past few years, we have actually put more money into food than we used to. Sure, it costs a little more, but (for the stuff I don’t grow) I’d rather support someone who does it right. Paying a little more is kind of like saying “good job!” At least that’s the way I look at it. 🙂

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Cam Mather and his wife Michelle live independently off the electricity grid using the sun and wind to power their home and their CSA. Cam is working towards the goal of making his home “zero-carbon” and with his extensive garden he aims to grow as much of his own food as possible. He is available to speak at conferences and other events and has motivated many people to integrate renewable energy into their lives, reduce their footprint on the planet and get started on the path to personal food, fuel and financial independence.
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