Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Fresh produce ~ local and loyal

Shopping for locally produced fruit, vegetables and other products is what keeps local businesses thriving and encourages locals to make a go of it on their own account.  It also gives the buyer a reasonable assurance of quality and the conditions in which goods are produced, reduces carbon miles, and gives our local communities individuality and charm.

Apricots are now in season, and as I like to buy mine directly from local growers I headed off early on Saturday morning to get my haul for the season.  Even at 8.30 in the morning the Otago Farmers Market was thronged with shoppers:

I bought four cases for a very reasonable price, but to be honest, I was more interested in paying a fair price than in getting the cheapest possible: I want to do my bit to ensure that growers keep their trees and don't take it into their heads to replace them with a different crop because they are not getting a good enough return on their apricots, a reality that orchardists have to live with!  I want to continue to be able to buy local fruit, and this is what it takes to keep these orchards going!  Already, many apricot orchards have been axed and replaced by grape vines as you can read in my article as linked to below.

Those four boxes contained nearly 30 kilos of fruit with which I'll make jam and preserves, enough to last us until next season!  It's quite a bit of work but simple enough when you know how, and once packed away one then has the glorious flavour of sun-ripened fruit right through the winter and following spring.  

Those interested in consulting my recipes can find them in the following article:
The Edmonds Fresh Fish shop has a stall at the market, but we usually buy ours from the shop itself:

The fish stocked there are all from local catches made from a small boat which works just off our coast. It's a small business, and fish is as fresh as it is possible to get without going out there yourself.  Service is friendly and we are known there by name.  Sometimes when the weather is bad the boat can't get out, and the shop is shut as there are no fish to sell.  I like that, although it must be inconvenient for workers: weather is part of the natural world and of fishing and farming in particular, and I like to be part of that.

In the same way that orchardists and other growers need our patronage so do local fishermen, whose sales can be radically affected by cheap imports - imports from countries which do not have our standards of health, environmental cleanliness and working conditions.  Furthermore, fish and chips shops may serve such fish to buyers without them being aware either of what it is or where its from. Next time you buy fish and chips you may wish to ask!  This article outlines some of the issues:
It's very convenient to buy from supermarkets and department stores, but many of these are big chains, which don't seem to hesitate to use their size and big-business clout to force prices below what smaller retailers can compete with, so I shop at these large places sparingly, and pay my money to local businesses when I can. 

When scanning local businesses for information I keep a look out to see if they are locally owned and operated, even if part of a large franchise, and also look at labelling to see where items have been produced, and what they are made from.  It all helps.  Local products may be a little dearer than you expect or could pay elsewhere, but who do you want to benefit?  I like to benefit my local community!

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