Friday, August 7, 2009

Another Reason to Buy Local!!

I spent last night pressure canning 7 bottles of string beans. I stayed up until 11:45 pm waiting for the pressure cooker to depressurize so I could lift the lid and let the pan and bottles cool. This also allows the bottles to seal. You ask why go through all the trouble, why not just pop it to your local grocery store and buy a can of beans? Well off the cuff I would say because it tastes much better. If you can bottle as soon as they are picked the flavor is much better. But tonight a much bigger reason was brought to my attention.
I have been canning/bottling fruits and vegetables since I was old enough to shuck corn. I have always just taken for granted the reason we did it was the taste but as I have grown I have learned the main reason I still do it is because of local vegetable farmers and this is the story of four.
My grandfather raised a very large garden with one arm, he didn't have to do this but it made him happy to be able to provide something for his family. In his day not many employers would hire a guy with only one arm. I remember him taking odd jobs like shearing sheep or fixing lawn mowers for the neighbors but he never had a full time job. My grandmother worked as much as she could, usually more that 40-60 hrs a week just make ends meet for their bustling family of 8, women never made as much as a man (and for the most part still don't). GP (that's what we called him)mostly raised the children and taught them what it means to work hard for what you have and never expect from others what you can provide for yourself. After the children were raised GP continued his gardening and during the spring, summer, & fall that meant digging irrigation ditches, plowing, planting, weeding, fertilizing, pest control, harvesting, and then preparing things for winter. Needless to say I and many of the grandchildren spent many days with GP learning the craft and then many more days with mom & Grandma in the kitchen canning what GP raised. This was his baby, this was his career so to speak and he put everything he had into it. GP died in 1999 of cancer. Grandma tried to keep up the garden but just couldn't go it alone. This was very hard for me, I was just starting to raise my own family and not having GP around to help me teach my own was heartbreaking.
Well little did I know that my husbands family (2 years into the marriage) canned veggies also and his father (at 70 years of age) raised 50 or so tomato plants, hot peppers (for a special family recipe), cucumbers, etc.. for the family canning project. I was elated!
I have been canning with Robert's mom, sister, and sister-in-law for ten years now but its sad to say that John (Robert's father) turned 80 this year and hasn't been able to tend to much to the gardening I really believe that is what has kept him going for all these years to provide quality product for the family.
My personal garden is really lagging this year (with exception of my cabbage). So when Robert's mom give me a basket of beans I jumped at the chance to bottle a few, figuring this might be the last time or if not I can at least start teaching my younger girls how. I also thought about checking the local corn stands for a bushel or so of tomato's. Just to keep up on things.
Well upon my checking of the local stands, I put a few standards or criteria into it. If I was going to BUY these tomato's they have to be up to GP's standard. First of all I needed to know what variety they were and where they were raised. You just can't can anything. Second is price. I want to keep this craft alive but I can't break the bank either. Third ( just put this one in today) DON'T BUY anything from these guys who have more that two or three stands across the whole state!!!! There not in this for the love of gardening or farming there in it for the money, notoriety, and to run the little guy out of business.
There is a local corn stand I have been going to for years. It's on the corner of 400 North and Main Street here in Payson. This local farmer has always had quality stuff. He also brings in some great Green River melon. The corn has always been delicious. He and his wife raise all of their veggies themselves right here in Spring Lake. Most everything is picked fresh daily and doesn't spend too much time on the truck. Well I have never bought tomato's from him because we have always raised our own, except this year. So I take a ride over to check my first two criteria. The young gentleman(maybe 17) running the stand doesn't have any idea what variety the tomato's are but the price is good @ .50/lbs or $9.50/box but still I need to know what variety it is so I tell the young lad I'll be back. I run down the street to the local monopoly (you know who)(Get that water boiling stand) and ask the same questions. Well the lady at this stand does know that the variety is Celebrity (good) but the price is more than double @2/1.00 (yes that's two tomato's) or $19.50/box. Holy cow! This is definitely something I need to ponder.
Robert and I went back to the local stand later this evening and the owner of the stand was there. He was able to tell me the variety and a lot of other thing as well. Tony, the owner of the stand has been farming since he was a small boy in the fields of Mexico he came to this country in 1979 and has worked in the fields and out ever since. He and his wife started their own farm several years ago as a supplement to their income and hoping the day would come that they could do this and only this. These last few years have shown great potential and great disappointment. As with most small farmers everything is on the line financially and emotionally. There is a certain chain or monopoly (I won't name names) that has taken or pushed him off the few place in which he sells his product, he is now basically relegated to the small corner (400 N & Main St which he owns)here in Payson. Tony is passionate about his work, he is not out to break the bank, he is not out make big money, or run the competition out of town. He is doing this for the community to provide them with local quality produce at reasonable prices and only enough money to comfortably provide for his family. If things don't pick up for Tony this season he is not sure he will be back next year. Needless to say I purchased my tasty tomato's from Tony and will continue to only buy from him. So Buy from Tony! You will know for sure that it is local and that you're keeping the competition fair!
DON'T BUY from the big chains/monopoly's their in it for the money and to step on the little guy. How many others have they run out of business.

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