Local produce vs. Imported

oregon_veg(8)September 7, 2007

I happened on a discussion on another forum about the cost of Local produce and the low prices of imported.

I battle this every day.

Has anyone else discussed this?

It is ironic that I had this problem with a local marketer over my garlic. She said it won't sell because the Chinese can sell it cheaper. She was right.


Here is a link that might be useful: Local vs. Imported

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I don't sell produce, I sell ornamental plants and herb plants at a small farmers market. When I meet someone outside of the market and tell them about my little enterprise they often ask "are the prices at your market, 'farmer's market prices"? Meaning, higher then normal. This tells me that there are people out there that assume farmers market prices are too high. I don't feel that the produce vendors at my market are out of line but they do seem to struggle to find customers. Maybe part of the problem is that plenty of people can't afford to pay more than grocery store prices. I have friends that sell at a large upscale farmers market nearby and the vendors at their market charge outrageously high prices but they are full of eager shoppers each weekend. The difference, it took them years to train the customers to pay those prices, it didn't happen overnight.

Another problem - I'm a normal guy. I don't smoke, nor have I had chemotherapy or anything that would alter my sense of smell or taste and I cannot tell the difference between food from my backyard and most of what is offered at the store. Even things like eggs and chicken meat. I've grown my own for years and I can tell you that there is nothing special about my produce. Often I hear vendors shouting about how their stuff taste better but in my mind I am sitting there thinking - well, not really. It is fresher and probably healthier for you but to me it doesn't taste any better.

As towards you original question - I think there is some sort of international trade laws in place that affect prices. Something about it not being in our countries best interest to by self sufficient as far as food. We want them to buy our stuff so we gotta make room on the shelf for their stuff. Somewhere in the process there is a shelf full of cheap food in front of us.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2007 at 9:30PM
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If consumers are willing to lower their standards for well traveled garlic from China, so be it. I wouldn't risk my family's health of food from China. In general I don't risk my family's health of most food from the US either.

We see a big difference in flavor, texture and storing ability with the food we raise on our farm and buy locally. It's fresh, has been grown in healthy soil without synthetic inputs and has more nutritional value. Vegetables need time to fully mature in order for best nutritive value. Leaving a tomato on the vine until it's ripe makes packing and distributing difficult because the tomato is more likely to crack or be crushed.

I'm listening to 20 meat chicks peeping in a crate near my desk. They're six days old. In another week they'll go outside to be raised on grass. They'll move, something factory farmed poultry does very little of. While they're moving they'll build muscle tone. This leads to a meat that doesn't melt in your mouth - you have to take the time to chew. You'll have more time to enjoy the flavor. I can buy cheap government subsidized chicken in a grocery store but it's not really cheap. I've already paid for some of that meat through my tax funded subsidy.

What little we don't raise on our farm is bought from local farmers. We raise chicken, duck and turkey and all of our vegetables. When the last of our own beef is gone from the freezer we'll buy more from the same farmer who raises our pork and lamb. We know where it comes from, how it was raised and that it's healthy.

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 8:52AM
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garliclady(z7 NC)

I sell garlic and when I started 12 years ago fresh garlic was a hard sell here in the south. But I have built up a customer base. Locally grow specialty varieties of garlic taste better and have a longer storage life than the shipped counterparts. When people ask is there a difference in mine and store bought. I remind them of the store bought tomato vs the local "homegrown" types - Then they get it! Also having several varieties intrigues them and they buy a little of each once they try it they will come back.(how many varieties can you buy at the grocery store?? ) Maybe you ought to educate them with the fact that most grocery store garlic is grown in China, many esspecially on the west coast may assume most garlic is california grown like it used to be .

This year was our worst year for growing garlic and most of our heads are very small- but the customers are still buying mine at $8-$10 per pound. Because it is... Great tasting , not grown in CHINA, they can talk to the grower and with many varieties they have choices in flavors they could never buy at the grocery store. One guy at our farmers market resales garlic that he buys wholesale I am sure wasn't grown in the US and yes it is much cheaper. He is really not supposed to resale but still gets by with it but I just chuckle to myself everyweek as I pack up my almost empty baskets of tiny garlic and his basket of big white garlic is still full!

    Bookmark   September 9, 2007 at 11:58PM
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I'm surprised that you don't find a difference in taste between "storebought" and "homegrown." That quality difference is what has impelled me into becoming a market gardener, and judging from the customers is a main reason that they come to the market. My family became indignant when I proposed to bring the garden melons to the market to sell; even though the melons in the grocery are not bad the freshness and flavor of the Earliqueens is just so much more. Then there are tomatoes and corn, of course, but even lettuce and green beans taste better for being raised without chemicals, picked when ripe, and eaten soon after.

To be fair, I have had some failures, like bitter cucumbers, watery tomatoes, and woody-tasting carrots, all NOT as good as the store. But those are problems with my cultivation, not backyard food in general.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2007 at 1:00PM
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The perception of what is better is changing. As consumers become accustomed to supermarket quality they tend to accept it as the norm. I have to explain more times than I'd like to that tomatoes don't need to be rock-hard to be good; the green shoulders don't mean that you can't eat it for another week,etc.

I blame "Experts" and the media for telling the public what to look for in purchasing produce.

Sometimes there are no obvious differences; sometimes we have an inferior product- we don't control the weather. If I were growing garlic I would definately be focusing on the food safety issues of buying anything pulled from the ground in China. Develop a reputation for quality and price won't be as big of an issue.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 8:59AM
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sundacks - I generally keep quiet about my experiences with food flavor. But I have neighbors and friends that can go on and on about the taste difference between store bought and home grown. It hasn't been my experience. Sometimes my garden produce is superior but it isn't always. But then again, I am pretty picky when it comes to spending my money so I don't buy cheap produce and most of the stores around here sell local and organic stuff (even the small stores). I garden because it is convenient to walk outside and pick my dinner rather then drive down the street and spend money on it. I just think that if organic home grown produce tasted incredibly better and gave results that people sensed quickly, it would be easier to sell or it would sell itself.

More customers buy sugary baked goods at my market then fresh picked produce.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2007 at 5:20PM
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I gotta agree with trianglejohn, in our little rural FarmerÂs Market more people buy my pies and cinnamon rolls than mine or anybody elseÂs produce. For the most part the difference is in the age group of the customers. In the morning we get most of our customers who are elderly. They are price conscious to the extreme and very picky about looks. In the late afternoon we get the younger working folks who seem more inclined to organic and local.

However, I havenÂt found anybody at the market that thought our local stuff tasted much better or different than store-brought even when I offer samples. In fact, I have MANY people refuse to taste free samples of heirloom tomatoes because they didnÂt look like store-brought. The only thing southern Minnesotans are taste-conscious about is sweet corn. Probably because so much of it is grown here they know the difference. In fact I have even had debates with people who insist that commercial carrots from the mega-farms in California taste better than carrots grown locally.

I do agree with others that educating the shoppers helps, especially in large urban areas. I find the news media in those areas do a better job at running human interest stories about farmerÂs markets and organic produce in general. I can always tell when an article runs about CSAs up in the Twin Cities because I start getting emails about joining. The big stories in our local, rural newspapers are about high school sports scores and property taxes  end of story. Despite the fact that I have offered to write stories and have written to the editors, very little is covered about food in the local media. What people see and hear in the media does have a big effect on what they choose to buy! So a story in the local newspaper describing how importing garlic from China is flooding the market forcing good ole US of A farmers out of business probably would be the best avenue to take.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2007 at 8:04AM
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Well, I guess I've been lucky. In our first season with a new market (ended now) customers came back repeatedly with raves for beans, greens, squash and tomatoes, and yes, carrots. We probably have a more savvy clientele made up of college profs and summer people from NYC.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2007 at 7:51PM
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hedwig(QLD Brisbane)

1. look if there are import regulations on produce like garlic. At least here in Australia there are and garlic is sprayed with methylen- bromide which is quite nasty.
2. at least in Europe mostly imported produce was more often blamed to exeed safety regulations on pesticide residues.
3. veggies are loosing vitamins etc. with storing. Imported food is stored more time, maybe you can tell your ccustomers when your salads is harvested (garlic is only once a year)
4. taste. Try a mixed asparagus dish. pop in imported and fresh local asparagus. You will taste which one is imported.
5 social conditions and slave labour in china
6. jobs in your area
7. prices in china for rice, bread, clothing, rent, production are cheaper, so they can produce cheaper than you can

    Bookmark   October 1, 2007 at 2:11AM
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I live in Sydney and never buy imported produce at the market.

In fact I don't think it should be sold. Just today, I was looking at the Chinese nashi pears that are sold here, there is Chinese garlic, and green grapes from the US. I just cringe at the thought of all that fossil fuel being burnt just to bring these products half way across the world.

Thats my bit.


    Bookmark   October 8, 2007 at 3:27AM
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