Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Harvester, The Trucker, and The Produce Handler

As I was preparing dinner last night, I unbundled a bunch of scallions (green onions) and had to wonder about how much energy goes into grocery market produce, as compared to the produce that you harvest from your own yard. It started with my consideration of the two thin, blue rubber bands used to bundle the scallions together, but my perspective broadened to include the harvester, the trucker, and the guy who trims the tips off the scallions and arranges them neatly on the produce shelf at my local grocery store. Compare all those costs and energy inputs with just walking outside and pulling produce from your garden. It seems so overwhelming to imagine all the little price tags that add up to the cost of something so small as a bunch of scallions.

I was searching an entirely different topic at the time, but here’s what I came across – For every dollar we spend on produce, only about 19 cents goes back to the farmer – astonishingly all the rest goes into getting the product to the consumer. It makes me glad I stumbled upon a second, unintentional internet find – a local u-pick, organic, blueberry farm. I’ve been meaning to find one for years, but for some reason had not been aware that there was one very close to my home. I can’t wait for July now.

The cost of marketing farm foods has increased considerably over the years, mainly because of rising costs of labor, transportation, food packaging materials, and other inputs used in marketing, and also because of the growing volume of food and the increase in services provided with the food. . . . From 1990 to 2000, consumer expenditures for farm foods rose $211 billion. Roughly 92 percent of this increase resulted from an increase in the marketing bill. (USDA link)


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