A late spring frost wiped out my urban orchard, leaving me with the challenge of finding low cost, local produce that I could purchase for home-canning. Instead of hitting the farmer’s market where fresh fruit and summer veggies average between $3-6 a pound, my teen and I recently drove a few counties over to buy our produce direct from the grower.
Back in the old days before our community even had corner fruit stands and farmers markets, home canners often bought their produce right off the dock from the orchard owners. Not only could we buy produce in the quantities we needed, the produce also was quite a bit fresher having been picked within the last 24 hours. Here are some other reasons why we prefer buying our produce directly from the grower instead of from a produce wholesaler.
Because we are buying directly from the grower, the price of the produce is much less expensive. It’s been my experience that grower prices are at least 50% less expensive than the store, with even more of a discount for fruit that’s overripe (but still good for pies, juice, and jam). The savings is especially significant when having to buy several hundred pounds of produce for home canning.
Most grocery stores carry a very limited selection of produce such as only 5-6 varieties of apples, one type of pluot and maybe three types of pears. While these are great to eat, they aren’t necessarily the best varieties for home-canning, saucing or drying. At the orchards, buyers have a much larger selection of produce (including canning varieties) to choose from.
On principle, I try not to buy produce that is grown more than a day’s drive from our home. Supporting local farms and orchards keeps the local economy healthy. It also eliminates the “middleman” resulting in produce that is more flavorful, fresher and nutritious.
Spending the day at the orchards is really quite a bit of fun, especially if you hit several fruit & vegetable stands during your trip. We found everything from home grown honey, to handmade pies, locally made preserves, and local wines. It was a good thing we brought along a pickup truck since we pretty much filled up the bed with all the scrumptious things we found.
Buying produce from local growers is a great way to connect with the people who grow the food we eat. Not only is locally grown produce healthier for us, its a fun way to spend the day while keeping the money we spend in the community.
More by this contributor:
How to tell when pumpkins are ripe
How much is a bushel and a peck?
Are my canning jars safe to use?