I recently read a Facebook post that advocated for the closing of all grocery stores so that people would simply have to buy all their food from local farmers.... A response posted said "What a great idea!", so I started to really think about this in a literal sense, NO grocery stores! What do I as a farmer have to provide the millions of urban neighbors in the Baltimore/DC/Philadelphia metro region who need to be fed all year round?
The nearest grocery store to my house is 5 miles away. I get the majority of my food there because since I work on our family farm, I have little need to drive any further. All other grocery stores are 20 miles away. I tend not to go there unless I am needing to do other errands in that town. I highly value my time and my fuel, so the closest grocery store gets 99% of my grocery business. I don't traipse all over looking for "deals" or special items. I shop in one place and get what I need and get out. (By the way, I hate shopping, period). I would never drive 6 or 8 places to get "all" of what I would need to feed my family. I wouldn't go to the dairy farm, then the beef farm, then the pork farm, then the grain farm, then the fruit farm, then the chicken (broiler) farm, then the chicken (layers) farm, then the vegetable farm. I don't have the time, nor do most of these farms have direct to consumer sales in January or February.
Eliminating grocery stores throughout our country would leave a lot of hungry people in the winter. Below are pictures from my farm in Maryland in February along with 2 of my neighbor's farms. None of us have products to sell this time of year. While there are some farms who have year round greenhouses, there is not enough supply to replace grocery stores entirely. It would also mean a huge shift in infrastructure needed on local farms to support the damage that cars and customer traffic create. I personally prefer my farm without parking lots thank you very much, but if we need to feed everyone because there are no grocery stores, then paving over farm fields for parking lots would be necessary. After all, our lanes are not paved and people shopping for food after work in dress shoes don't like to step in mud or manure.
So what do we have growing in the winter? Below are some pictures of our current crops... or lack thereof:
I would also miss the items that we have grown accustomed to in our diet such as orange or pineapple juice and bananas. None of these grow here in Maryland. While I "get" the local food movement, I don't believe the average American has any concept of what it would take to source all their dietary needs directly from farmers.Nor the time required to do so. Nor the resources required to do so. Not every one has a farmer's market nearby. Many farmer's markets couldn't support the mass of people who would need to be fed without grocery stores. And believe it or not, not all farmers want to be retail operations. How would I find enough people to buy the 8.5 million pounds of Roma tomatoes that we grew last summer? We'd never be able to sell 20 tractor trailer loads of tomatoes a day on the fresh. local market, which is why we grow them for a cannery, so that consumers eat them in tomato products year round!
Local food is great and benefits the local economy in season, but a number of our US growing regions do not support year round food production to the extent that it would replace grocery stores.
Support local farmers, in season! Remember that farmers also grew the items you buy at the grocery store so that we have a wonderful selection year round!