A Buy-Local Curmudgeon Is Gradually Persuaded
By Carol O'Biso
From Issue 2: Spring 2009
I’m a writer with a 55 to 60 hour work-week not counting the laundry, cleaning—blah, blah, blah— and I’m supposed to go to five different places to buy my food? Call people up? Make appointments to pick up my eggs? Are they kidding? I was vigorously expressing these views to my more enlightened colleagues at the Gazette (I do layout and editing) and eventually noticed that everyone had kind of turned to stone. They all had polite, frozen little smiles on their faces. I suddenly had an epiphany (this can happen when you sense your life is in danger). I would launch an experiment: could someone with a pressured life and modest income adjust to buying local?
My experiment began when I had forgotten to buy Christmas gifts for two colleagues and just could not bring myself to race up to New Paltz. Meadowscent Florist probably thought they were being held up when I burst through the door with a crazed look on my face (at least I hadn’t left the car running) and said, “I need two gifts for guys, for under $15 each.” Within minutes I had a hammered copper tree ornament for the family guy with a toddler, and a set of wine-snob coasters for the wine snob. Perfect. Soon after that my doctor suggested wrist splints for my carpal tunnel. These are expensive little devices, with internet prices ranging from $19 to $27, plus shipping. I valiantly fought off the tug of Wal-Mart and went to Dedrick’s instead. They surprised me by having the very best type of splints for $22 each. I didn’t have to pay shipping, and I didn’t have to be exposed to a person with a deranged grin saying, “Welcome to WalMart.” (Why does that make me want to bite someone’s leg?) I was clearly on a roll, so for Valentine’s Day I went to Hi Ho Home Market. I found a number of suitable gifts but, lo and behold, they sell honey from Widmark Farms. Who knew? My family has always loved Widmark honey, and we haven’t had any since the farm closed to the public.
When I turned to food, the buy-local road got bumpier. Food is relentless. You gather the stuff and your family just comes along and eats it all up so you have to go do it all over again. I decided to tackle eggs first. Eatlocalfood.org (written about in the last Gazette) gave me a place to start, but the magic local food fairy was not in. I still had to look up phone numbers, call and ask about availability, etc. I calmed myself with deep breathing and the knowledge that this business of developing a viable buying pattern was something I would only have to do once. In any case, I could find no Gardiner-laid eggs available in Gardiner in February. I did find that The Village Market in Gardiner, and Robin’s Warehouse and Health & Nutrition in New Paltz carry eggs that at least come from the Hudson Valley, and the price is not enough more to give me a stroke or anything. The last egg hurdle was size: the local-ish eggs weren’t jumbo. My family is used to jumbo eggs. Come to think of it though, it’s probably not really a normal or natural thing for chickens to lay eggs the size of the State of Missouri. I’ll think we’ll adjust.
The best resource I found was the indoor farmer’s market at Robin’s. True, I hate weekend grocery shopping, and we’ve been renovating our house for nine years (I wouldn’t lie about some-thing like that) so scraping off the grout and caulk and paint to get there in a narrow band of time—third and fourth Saturday of each month, 10:00 am to 1:00 pm—is not always possible. Still, the market has the feel of a festival so it’s not onerous, and the arrangement is probably as convenient as the buy-local thing is going to get: when I can’t find what I want in the farmer’s market, or if prices get the better of me, I can back out (smiling) and shop as usual in the traditional part of the store. The winter farmer’s market is finished, but in June, the summer one will begin. Call Robin’s for details (255-5201).
All in all, I am proud of my early efforts to change the habits of a lifetime. The experiment continues …