Three Tips for Buying Local on a Budget

When it comes to buying produce, I try to get as much as possible from farmer’s markets or local grocers rather than supermarkets. Not only do smaller growers tend to raise their crops more organically (i.e. with fewer pesticides or hormones) than massive corporations, but you also get the comfort of knowing that the food hasn’t had to travel alci seasonalthousands and thousands of miles to get to your table. That saves hundreds of gallons of fuel that would have otherwise been spent cooling and transporting the food across the country, much less the world. Not to mention that the local food is much tastier because it’s fresh.

The one critique I keep hearing when it comes to locally-sourced food is price. When I encourage my friends to shop at our city’s farmer’s market, they typically say something like, “I love the farmer’s market, but it’s so expensive! How can you afford to go there every week?” Without going into the economics of it, I’ll admit that local food tends to be less cheap because small producers don’t have the kinds of business models that allow big manufacturers to keep prices low. When grocery stores sell a pint of blueberries for $2.99, many people feel that the positives of buying local still don’t justify spending $5 for the same amount. However, there are three simple tricks you can use to buy locally and economically.

1. Browse before you buy

Since all the vendors are growing their produce in the same climate and season, most of them offer the same variety of fruits and vegetables. For the shopper, that translates into multiple price options. Just last week, I saw potatoes being sold at $3/lb., $3/pint, $4/quart, and $5/quart. Before making a single purchase, walk the entire market, make price comparisons, and then buy accordingly.

2. Remember why you’re there

It’s incredibly easy to get enticed by things like fresh breads, pastries, and nut butters, especially when samples are available, but you must resist! Try to concentrate on buying produce and whatever else you planned to buy, because treats can cost a pretty penny. The two, age-old pieces of advice ring just as true at local markets: don’t shop hungry and bring a list.

3. Try something new

market vegetablesThe farmer’s market is a great place to discover new varieties of food. This slightly contradicts my advice of sticking to a shopping list, but if you see an appealing piece of fruit or vegetable for a low price – cheaper than whatever you had planned to buy – you should go for it. Buying food that you might not yet know how to cook is a great way to expand your culinary repertoire.

I realize not everyone is fortunate enough to live near a well-publicized farmer’s market, but look around online – or just walk around your town – and you might find some good local options. Being eco-friendly doesn’t have to be hard on your wallet.


EU Farms on the decline

2540332_935c95d8Farming in the EU has sharply declined since the 1990s. In the 12 member states that made up the EU there were 8 million farms, by 2000 when Austria, Finland and Sweden were added to the list, the number of farms in the EU declined to 6.6 million.

Overall, the farms in Europe are decreasing at the rate of 2% every year. In countries such as Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and the UK the decline were up to 8% a between 2002 and 2003.

In addition to decrease in farms, the demography of farmers is also changing. Today only 6% of farmers are under the age of 35 in the EU, while 34% of all farmers are above 65.

Reasons for change

There are various factors that are responsible for these changes. One of them is both the size and profitability of farming. Firstly, many farms are being consolidated in the hands of a few big corporations. This means that while small-scale farming has decline, large-scale farming has been booming. In Germany, the average farm size has increased from 10 to 40 hectares in the past 40 years.

When looking at the financial breakdown of EU support for farmers, we can easily see why the big farms have been getting bigger, while the small ones have come close to disappearing. As ironic as it may be, while the price on food has been increasing from year to year, farmer wages have been declining.

The European Parliament has noted that between 1995 and 2002 the prices paid to farmers for their produce has declined by 1.1%. In France, prices paid to farmers have declined by 15% for beef and 30% for pork between 1990 and 2008. And while the EU also has a subsidy system, most of the money is concentrated in small hands.

74% of the European Community’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) funds that yearly go to aid farmers is received by 20% of EU farmers (mainly big corporations), while 70% of farmers must share only 8% of the funds.

Shifting Atmosphere

In addition to all the money and land worries, the lifestyle of a farmer is becoming ever so stressful. The stress, work-related accidents, illnesses, high levels of suicide due to mounting debts and more restrictions as new laws are created around seeds, and their trade.

Empirical evidence of farming across the EU has shown that the situation is getting worse, with increasing human right abuse cases, economic exploitation and lack of job security. These workers are known as the ‘new slaves of capitalism’. (Herman, 2008). This slow monopolization of our farming in the hands of big companies is like a rope around the necks of small-scale farmers that is getting tighter with each year.

Our current food system is in need of a complete fix. One thing we can start with is fair wages for farmers and a fairer distribution of the EU CAP funds.


1.Pimbert, Michel. “Participatory Research and On-Farm Management of Agricultural Biodiversity in Europe.”

Posted by Hokuma Karimova