The Cost of Food

This isn’t about the homestead per se, but is related because my values about food are directly related to my desire to be more self-sufficient.

It’s no secret that I am a fervent supporter of local, small-scale food producers.  I am tremendously lucky to be privileged enough to follow my values and prioritize buying food that has a smaller travel footprint, but may come with a higher out-of-pocket cost.

Recently, Mike and I were at a social gathering with people who we had just met.  As you do at such a thing, we were making small talk with a few people when the topic shifted to a local bakery that had recently opened in the area.  One of our fellow party-goers was shocked to discover that the bakery sells loaves of bread for $8 each.  She seemed almost offended by the idea that a loaf of bread could cost so much – what on earth could be so special about a loaf of bread that could make it be worth $8?

As a frequent patron and huge fan of this local bakery, I quite honestly found this woman’s commentary annoying.  Taking a step back, I realize that her viewpoint is formed by our society’s assumptions about what food should cost; our ideas about the value of food to a consumer, and not the costs associated with all of the steps that it takes to get our food from it’s starting point to our plates.  For example, a loaf of bread from a small-scale local bakery is worth $8 because of these costs:

  • Renting or buying bakery & retail space in the greater Bay Area, and paying the associated ancillary costs such as utilities;
  • Paying bakers & retail employees enough money to somewhat survive in the greater Bay Area;
  • Purchasing (and in some cases milling their own!) organic flour from California farmers;
  • Purchasing other high-quality ingredients (dairy, fruit, etc.) from other local purveyors;
  • Purchasing equipment and implements needed to prepare and bake the loaves;
  • Purchasing vehicles and gasoline to deliver the goods to third-party sellers;
  • The reduced carbon footprint of the loaf;
  • Other things that I’m not readily thinking of at the moment.

Taking all of these factors into account, doesn’t it feel good to support a local business and local people by paying $8 for a loaf of bread?  Again, I realize that I am lucky to be in a financial position to prioritize this kind of spending because it is important to me.

I also don’t claim to be a perfect locavore.  I am human and swayed by sales, random impulse buys at Trader Joe’s, bulk items at Costco, and other questionable purchases. But, I am glad to say that the majority of my day-to-day staples come from local producers.

If you’re feeling inspired, here are some of my favorite local purveyors in San Jose and Santa Cruz:

  • Spade & Plow: I get a weekly CSA box from S&P and could not be a happier customer.  Every box is full of beautiful, delicious veggies and fruits.  I love being able to directly support the Thorp family and all of the good folks who work for the farm.  They have also recently started partnering with the Midwife and the Baker to provide a bread add-on.
  • Everett Family Farm: This farm is just down the hill from us in Soquel, on the Santa Cruz side of the mountain.  They are also known for their cider!
  • Companion Bakeshop: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think this is my very favorite bakery around here.  Their bread is generally just how I like it (not too “crusty”), their pastries are amazing, and I LOVE their quiche (you may know my affinity for savory pie!).  They have shops in Aptos and westside Santa Cruz, and also sell their pastries at Cat & Cloud (see below).
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Quiche at Companion, accompanied by Cat & Cloud coffee
  • Chromatic Coffee: OG San Jose coffee roaster.  I so appreciate their San Jose pride.
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Chromatic Cafe, downtown San Jose
  • Cat & Cloud Coffee: My favorite coffee on the Santa Cruz side of the hill.  Mike and I call them the “happy hipsters” because they have such good vibes.
  • Camino Brewing: Taproom just outside of downtown San Jose – with tacos most nights!

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  • Humble Sea and BruxoIf you find yourself in westside Santa Cruz, just go.  You will not regret it.
  • Discretion Brewing: Best bet for beers and delicious small bites on the Capitola side of Santa Cruz.

Does it seem like I only care about veggies, coffee & beer?  They are good gateways to the local food producers!

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Mike is so happy to support local food at a collaboration dinner with Spade & Plow, Bruxo and Camino Brewing!

I’m super inspired by Andrea Bemis of Tumbleweed Farm in Mt. Hood, Oregon.  Last summer, she did a “Local 30” and blogged about it.  Once we’re settled and done with our big projects, maybe Mike and I will endeavor a Local 30 this summer!

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