I recently missed my local farmer’s market (bad weather, husband running late from work, two children who refused to nap), so after I got my boys down for a nap, I wound up going to the grocery store—the one that advertises having locally grown stuff. I figured I would get enough veggies so I could make some beef vegetable soup for me and the husband to have for lunches this week.
Sadly, I emerged from the store disappointed. Everywhere I looked, I saw produce from Mexico, Argentina, and Chile—and barely anything from the United States.
As a personal crusade, I try to buy all of my produce locally. Not only is locally grown produce from smaller farms fresher, it’s less likely to be laced in preservatives and it’s frequently cleaner—these farmers tend to use fewer pesticides. I believe in supporting farmers who are committed to bringing us fresh, seasonal food, and I find myself getting more and more frustrated because it seems like it’s getting even harder to find.
Produce from outside the country is becoming cheaper, no question, but it’s destroying farmers within the United States. In my home state of Florida, tomatoes are rotting on the vine because the demand for them has dropped since so much importing from Mexico is going on. In January, the USDA reported that imports of Mexican tomatoes had risen to nearly 12 million 25 pound packages, up from 7.1 packages at the same time the previous year. The amount of tomatoes alone that are coming in from Mexico has been steadily increasing every year–USDA statistics show that U.S. imports of Mexican greenhouse tomatoes have increased from 25,600 metric tons in January 2006 to 60,500 metrics in January 2011.
While I realize cost is an issue (and it is in our house, too), the fact is that if these trends continue, many local farmers are going to eventually go out of business. We are then going to be saddled with relying on getting our produce from outside the U.S. borders. Eating locally and seasonally is better for your health and the environment. While produce from Mexico may be cheaper now, the impact on the environment and the livelihood of farmers could be staggering later on.