A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how adopting small changes in our lives, like buying local produce can make a difference from an environmental perspective. My interest was peaked when I discovered that there are several organic farms near my home that once a week deliver the order I place online. I checked a few different companies, but finally picked a family run business that has its own farm. My experiences were as follows (mind you, I live in the UK, this may not apply entirely to other countries):
Organic. We derive nutrients, vitamins, minerals and water from our food. Organic fruits, vegetables, dairy and meat provide us with an all-encompassing, healthy diet without the harmful chemicals, hormones, antibiotics and preservatives added to many of the store bought produce to ensure a longer shelf life.
Provides variety. Most companies offer fruit, vegetable, meat boxes and a mix of the three, so there are a lot of options to choose from. Produce availability depends on the season, so box contents change weekly. There are also recipe boxes containing the measured ingredients for 3-5 different dishes (changes weekly) and step-by step recipes. A great and affordable way to a varied diet.
Delivered for free. Ordering above a certain amount ensures that the goods get delivered straight to your door free of charge. We all have lives, and the convenience factor of not having to go the store, queue up at the cash desk and carry everything home is priceless for me. Home delivery saves a lot of time and the annoyance of the shopping experience. The service is also widely available (even in large cities, like London).
Tons of promotions. Vouchers, free recipes every week, cookbooks, tasters, product giveaways, free boxes, open days and family events (including farm visits), and the list goes on. The competition is strong, which works in your favour.
Sustainable. Recycled and recyclable packaging. The company I order from has a zero waste policy. All delivery boxes are made of foldable cardboard, and get reused up to 10-15 times before recycling. Their paper bags are also reusable in the household for various purposes (lunch bags, packaging for items kept in the fridge or freezer, lining for bins, etc.). All bags and boxes are printed with vegetable ink to make them 100% biodegradable.
Quality assured. Knowing the owners personally is another huge plus for me. You can visit their farm (they have open days), they take input, give you advice on their produce, and (depending on the size of the operation) they would also know what you like. Their customer service is more than supportive. Any queries, questions are dealt with as soon as possible to ensure customer satisfaction.
Supporting the local community. Your money flows back into the local community. A lot of people don’t realise how much this actually helps in ensuring the survival of small familly-run companies.
Being subjected to weather conditions. Weather influences the amount of sun, the quality of the soil and those factors have an effect on the produce. The quality may seem inconsistent at times, when your tomatoes are ripe one week, and almost green the next.
You don’t get to pick. One reason I would consider shopping at a market instead is that I’m presented with choices. Ordering pre-prepared box leaves that choice in someone else’s hands.
Price. Organic produce will always be more expensive than the non-organic version. Organic farming is labour-intensive, requires personnel (most of the weeding must be made by hand). When I made my first order I thought it’s expensive, but let me put a caveat in here. Considering how many shops I would have to visit to get all I’m ordering would significantly raise the costs of travelling, not to mention the time and money spent on the task.
Short shelf life. This deserves another caveat. The fact that most of the products will stay fresh only for a few of days is another plus for me. Lettuce is not supposed to last for 2 weeks without any signs of wilting or decaying (not to mention you wouldn’t wanna eat it by then). So shorter shelf life means you need to plan your order carefully, otherwise you’ll end up with items ripe for the bin.
Altogether the pros still outweigh the cons in my opinion. When I placed my first order I was pretty much impulse buying; I over-ordered or simply went for what I liked. ‘Oh, I want this…, and that too’, ‘I didn’t know you can get that here’, you get the picture. It took some getting used to and some planning before I got the hang of it, but overall I think ordering organic is beneficial to my health and my wallet as well.
Do you agree with my list? What is your experience with local farms?
Let me know by leaving a message in the comment section below.