Food for Thought
A closer look at the dollar-per-calorie ratio found at the farmers’ market.
READING KIER HOLMES’S garden article on DIY farming took me down a well-trodden memory lane. Have you ever served up a salad fresh from your garden? I’ll tell you from experience that it feels about as heady as saying, “Yeah, I rode my bike to work.” For me it’s like I’m aligning my actions with my intentions — also known as doing what feels right.
I get that same feel-good buzz as I browse the stands of the Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM)’s Civic Center Sunday farmers’ market. We are so lucky to live in a climate where we can grow our own food or, better yet, live close to so many great farmers who will do it for us.
I don’t easily part with my hard-earned dollars. But knowing that the farmers have done the heavy lifting here, that I am not the one who tended the crops and battled wily garden invaders, I don’t mind spending $10 for a dozen jumbo eggs or $40 for an abundant assortment of greens from County Line Farms, and thank God Brickmaiden Breads takes a credit card because I don’t want to see how much I’m spending there.
I recently ran into AIM director Andy Naja-Riese and he gave me a stat that made me feel even better. “Ninety percent of your dollar does directly to the farmers,” he told me. At a typical grocery store, that number is closer to 17 percent. So, when I’m making an egg salad for my daughter — with crunchy, fresh lettuce and shavings of fennel and arugula from the aforementioned County Line Farms; a dusting of feta, almond slivers and seasonal veggies from various other booths; and one of those jumbo eggs on top — I feel satisfied that I’ve done my best to feed my kid before she heads out for a day where not everything else is wholesome and healthy.
I became acutely aware of the value of such homemade goodness about a decade ago at the then-new farmers market in Tam Valley. I needed to pick up one daughter at Miwok Stables, so I let my 7-year-old hit the Tam market with a $10 bill to get a roasted chicken and possibly some of that good naan bread for dinner. When I pulled into the lot on my way back from Miwok, she was empty-handed, frustrated that I’d sent her out underfunded. “So embarrassing, mom.”
I was flummoxed. More than $10!? Costco had (and still has) pretty tasty roasted birds for less than five. And then, I thought about it. At the time, we had been making our own foray into chicken-raising. We couldn’t seem to keep them alive or even inside our own yard. And it took months for that loud, cackly brood to actually produce eggs. (See our story “All Cooped Up” in this issue to learn how Marinites today are embracing this poultry-rearing trend.) I started to realize it’s actually pretty amazing it only costs about $15 for someone else to raise a chicken, fatten it up, prepare it with spices, roast it on a spit for three-and-a-half hours, and then hand it over in a to-go container. Actually, it seems like we should pay more.
I think about that math almost every week when I walk up to the RoliRoti truck, the same business my daughter had visited a decade ago. The owner, Thomas Odermatt, son of a Swiss Metzgermeister (master butcher), has evolved his offerings since then and now sells an array of meats and roasted vegetables. I like the feeling of trust I have buying from him and from many of the other vendors. It is a lot easier than growing and producing my own. Are you a home farmer? We’d love to see your gardens. Please take a photo and tag @marinmagazine on your favorite social media channel.
Cheers to the soon-to-come bounty of spring. And bon appétit!