Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Boom And Bust At The Farmers' Market

Saturday before Labor Day was busy at the Midtown Farmer’s Market. This was in spite of record-setting attendance at the State Fair, nine miles away (four as the crow flies). We talked with people who had never shopped at the Market before, and Barsy’s sales were up more than a third.

Shopping neighborhood farmer’s markets is the way to go. The produce is local, the atmosphere is great, and the price is right. Tom of MarthaandTom.com comparison shopped Midtown, The Wedge -- a big local co-op, and Rainbow -- an upper-midwest grocery chain. He bought seventeen pounds of fruits and vegetables. Midtown prices should embarrass the Wedge. The bottom line at Midtown was marginally better than Rainbow’s, although a few items were a little cheaper at Rainbow. You can see a table comparing prices, and read Tom’s discussion at the link.

As sensible as shopping The Market is, the real reason for our heavy traffic was probably Gail Rosenblum’s story, Small potatoes, yes, but Midtown Market vies for No. 1, in Thursday’s Star Tribune.

A sad note was the news that our friends, Jill and Jeff and sons Jeremy and Justin, of Chase Brook Farm are calling it quits and moving back to Ohio. The Merkels have raised beef, pork, chicken, lamb, and eggs since 2001. They have farmed four thousand acres, and pastured their animals or fed them feed milled from their own grain, forswearing hormones, antibiotics, recycled animal products, ethanol byproducts, feedlots, and mass-production slaughter. It’s hard to compete with the mass producers.

And it’s hard to compete with somebody who’s letting society pick up the tab for his operation. When you have an infection, and your doctor gives you an antibiotic, the doc will be emphatic that you take all the pills, according to the prescribed schedule. The idea is that, if you let some of the bugs that are making you sick survive, you’re choosing bugs to survive that can stand up to antibiotics. When a strain of antibiotic-resistant bacteria develops, it’s because we’ve killed off the majority of its normal cousins. There’s more of a chance of this happening when millions of pigs, cattle, and angora rabbits chow down on grain-flavored amoxycillin every day of their brief lives. Society picks up the tab when it has to develop new drugs, or the drugs don’t work. Society picks up the tab for feedlot pollution, as well, and by losing more flexible and entrepreneurial family operations.

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