So the WSJ, as “liked” by a facebook friend, had an article yesterday on the potential impact of the drought in California on the prices of fruits and vegetables. An Arizona State University study “found a head of lettuce could increase in price as much as 62 cents to $2.44; avocado prices could rise 35 cents to $1.60 each; and tomatoes could cost 45 cents more at $2.84 per pound.” (Now, in my world, I pay 99 cents for a head of lettuce at Aldi or Valli Produce, so the national average is already much higher than that, but that’s another story.)
And, yes, I know there’s a dispute about the extent to which the drought is man-made by the refusal to send sufficient quantities of irrigation water into the Central Valley, but, at the same time, I would expect that the irrigation water would eventually run out, even if this present political issue were resolved favorably.
At the same time, around Chicago, at least, there’s a heavy push for farmer’s markets, and a further push for government/charity-run fruit-and-vegetable markets to combat the claimed scourge of food deserts. And everywhere you look, there’s an emphasis on fresh fruit and vegetables.
I get the feeling that people have forgotten that in most of the United States, we have a limited growing season. It’s only because of the ability to ship produce from California and elsewhere in the south, or from Mexico and other countries, that we can consider fresh produce outside of harvesttime as something that’s not just a special treat, but a requirement for healthy eating.
Visit a historical village/farm, such as Old World Wisconsin, and one of the things they’ll be demonstrating is how they preserved food to last year-round. Ugh. I’m grateful that we (as a country) have the ability to freeze and can produce, rather than saving root vegetables in the root cellar and having to make do with the last of the shriveled carrots and apples before the next year’s kitchen garden was ready to harvest, or eating sauerkraut and potatoes day after day.
But I’m still waiting for the twin impulses of “sustainability” and “fresh fruits and vegetables” to bump into each other, and for the people advocating both of these to discover that fresh produce in the winter, requiring massive irrigation in the South, and shipping the food North as fast as possible before it spoils, is not sustainable (nor is growing food in massive heated greenhouses in the North), and that maybe a little more frozen food may be.