This weekend, the family went strawberry picking at a local organic farm. We also started a small garden last week at home. While eating organic, local farming, home gardening, sustainable foot, etc. seem like trendy fads these days, we’ve been giving these ideas a try and we like the experience and the results.
How to Find Local Farms and Farmer’s Markets
Aside from word of mouth and local stories in your paper, there’s a great site for identifying local farms and farmer’s markets by location: LocalHarvest.org has the most user-friendly and in-depth data set I’ve come across. I actually wish I’d started using it sooner rather than asking around and waiting to happen to pass a weekend farmer’s market before acting on it.
We rounded up the kids (6,4,1) and off we went to a local farm. The two older boys loved getting their baskets and running up and down the rows picking strawberries. We had a rather obnoxious woman warn us that we were unlikely to find any good ones in the rows we were in since she doesn’t miss a strawberry and she’d already been there. So, it was all the more rewarding to find some great plump, ripe strawberries throughout the morning. In all, we probably spent an hour there. My wife got some great pictures and I had the baby on my back so I got quite a leg workout bending down to pick with the extra 20 pounds (that’s after the 20 pounds I’ve put on since my glory days!).
After we’d filled our baskets up pretty well, we brought them to a stand where they weigh your baskets. We ended up taking home about 11 pounds of strawberries at $3 per pound. When I compared that with what we pay at a local grocery store, I initially chuckled to myself that we pay about that at the store but I provided the labor for free. Then I considered that they’re organic and usually for for about $5-$6 per pound, so in that respect, it was a meaningful discount.
Others must have seen the value on a larger scale as well, because there were a few “hardcore pickers”. Besides the bizarre encounter with the champion strawberry picker, we saw some other earthy-looking people with massive trays and buckets of strawberries, presumably bringing tens of pounds back to their commune or wherever they were headed. But it wasn’t just families out for fun.
Once home, I couldn’t resist picking through the basket now and then throughout the day and my wife made a great strawberry shortcake last night. We also got some tips on storing them, freezing them, making jam and other ideas. So, they won’t go to waste, we saved some money, supported a local farm, and had fun while we were at it.
Last week, I set up a small garden in the back yard with some simple vegetables. I recall gardening with my dad as a kid and while I got some enjoyment out of it then, setting it up, planting and sharing the experience with my kids brought back memories. That vegetable garden was actually my foray into entrepreneurship. I had a stand out in front of the house and my dad used to let me keep the proceeds.
I’d put off starting a garden in the past primarily due to laziness. After doing some basic research, we just walked into a Home Depot and snagged a side-wall garden box, some soil, some fencing, and set it up in the yard in a sunny spot. In all, it only took about an hour to get set up and start planting a few things.
For this garden, we certainly aren’t saving any money this year. The setup cost was well over a hundred bucks and we’ll probably get all of $50 in vegetables out of there, but it can be considered an initial investment with much lower operating costs in future years. We ended up planting various peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, herbs and some other stuff. It will also be nice for the kids to see where our food comes from. Many kids these days have no idea where their food comes from, what it takes to grow something, what it costs, or what the health benefits are. Might as well start teaching them while they’re young.
What Are Your Gardening Experiences and Resources?
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