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Friday, June 19, 2009


Chance and I often talk about the higher prices for organics.Are they worth it? In some ways yes they are,better health and better for the planet.But what is a family living on a single income with growing boys to do?
This past winter we did some comparison shopping.We tried for one month to buy only organic foods and we learned some interesting things about our selves.
First of all we found it difficult to buy enough to keep hungry teens fed and stay within our food budget. The "There's nothing to eat" that kept coming just was not worth the price to us.Our boys are not picky eaters and are happy as long as there is plenty.
We tried eating less meats,no big deal there we are not big meat eaters any way.It is not uncommon for us to buy a nice block of cheese as our protein for dinner or a veggie based protein.Cutting back on something we did not eat much of in the first place still did not save us enough to make things work.
I don't buy processed foods organic or not,so I could not even try and cut those out.
During this time to try and make sure we were shopping smart we only bought what we thought we would use so there was no waste.This is a good habit no matter what kind of food you are buying.Still it was not working and it kind of pissed me off. I was not pissed about our economics but about the higher prices of organics.This led me to looking for the an answer and this is what I found.
It costs more to raise organic foods. It starts with the price of organic grains to feed the live stock.Some articles stated that the price of organic grains has been driven up because of Bio-Fuels,that's a whole different topic and for now is not really on my radar.
As some of you know we are raising 7 chickens to be butchered by ourselves very soon.We wanted the taste of a home grown chicken for our dinner plates.We want to know where that chicken came from.To know we had a relationship with that food. I have been tracking the cost of raising these birds,it's not especially cheap. The cost per bird will come out higher than a standard store bought chicken and lower than an organic one.With the cost of feed and the purchasing of the chicks they will end up costing us around $9 per bird.Is it worth it? Yes it is. We have learned something about the cost of raising food in a responsible way,it is not always cheap.But we have had the satisfaction of doing it ourselves.
It also costs more to amend soil organically.Ok I get that one,I the little guy pays a bit more to find organic fertilizers when I need them.It takes us a year to make a good batch of compost and it takes a bit of work too.
The next three have points I understand too.
There is more loss to growing organic produce, without sprays to kill the bugs, it happens.Even here at Hrafinstaad I lost some of my lettuces to slugs, because I won't spray.
Many organic farmers handpick their produce instead of using machinery.Boy do I get this one,having worked in the fields as a teen I know what kind of labor that takes,even with low pay for the workers.
Number three I think could be worked out if someone could think outside of their box.The organic farmers are mostly small farms,they can not produce a large enough quantity to bring the prices down.Factor in the over head costs and it is no wonder why farmers are never wealthy.
Overall I understand the whys but it dose not make it any better. Not wanting to give up on organic foods started us on our journey here. We wanted to come up with our own solution,if no one else was going to think outside of the box we were.Grow our own on our own terms.
We have spent $350 dollars on the production of food.This amount dose not include the feed for the hens or meat chicks.If I average it out over the 20 weeks we hope to eat fresh from the garden that is $17.50 a week (not including water).This is less than we would spend either at a store or the farmers markets for veggies.We get on average 12 dozen eggs per month ,they average out to $1.66 per dozen a good savings for free range eggs.We are saving money,money that can be funneled into those pricey organics we can't grow ourselves.
That savings is not the prize any more,it started out as the prized wanted but we have found new prizes that were not sought.
Chance and I both feel accomplished even in these tough economic times.We have taken control of things and made them work for our family.
We have learned so many new things and met some great new friends in the process. Knowledge and community are a wealth of their own.
We have been reminded to be thoughtful in all we do.You can't progress with your eyes closed.
And Farmers are under paid,over worked and not valued by most. With this in mind my quest to find out why organics are so high is over,I get it.In the back of my head I knew it,you can't come from a family of past farmers not to know it.I guess living it on a small scale is what it took to ram it home.

P.S Wow I was looking back over this and I should mention this point,I did not even factor in to all of my averaging our labor.I don't have a clue how many hours we have put into the garden and chickens or its worth.Its been a labor of love for us and endless pleasure. There's a phrase I read on another blog that stands out,"Do what you love and the money will come." Chance and I do all of this for the pleasure of it,Farmers do it for love and money,geeze was I being thick headed in being pissed about the price of organics.I still wish more people could afford them and maybe someone will step outside of the box and come up with a solution.

1 comment:

  1. One thing that is a moderated cost between retail and growing your own is to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Basically you pay an amount up front for a share in the harvest of a farm. There is often/sometimes a sliding scale for the fee, and different farms have, of course, different things that they grow, and different lengths of how long the "season" is. There are many such groups all around the country. We did this in Olympia when I lived in a bigger household that did not have a lot of garden space.