Saturday, March 22

Organic Veggie Options

Since we bought our house way back in December 2011, I have been trying to get Mr. FFF to help me build a garden. I researched EVERYTHING from which veggies we would grow, to the best location in our yard, to how to grow organically. At first, we needed to spend our money and more importantly our time on other more essential household projects instead of my garden. Then I realized a year had passed. I started to get discouraged and thought he would never help me so I changed my game plan to see what other options we have around town. I was surprised by how many organic vegetable choices we have here in the Tampa area.

Weather it be Fresh Market, Whole Foods, or Publix Greenwise, we have plenty of grocery stores in the area that carry organic vegetables. Whole Foods is perhaps the most expensive but they have a diverse selection of veggies and are always fresh. Fresh Market is lower on the price scale but the quality of the produce is hit or miss. They also do not have a wide selection- just the standards we all expect. Although they do have some really great deals throughout the summer season on greens and berries. Publix Greenwise is by far the best of both worlds. They often have twofers (you know, two for one) and buy one get ones. Even on the vegetables! Just two weeks ago I got a B1G1 on Fennel... pretty good deal.

PROS: One stop for all groceries is so convenient. It is open every single day with the exception of some big holidays. You don't have to guess if they are going to have [insert produce here], they almost always have it in stock.  

CONS: Has anyone noticed how expensive organic produce is? The Cilantro at Publix used to be 99 cents but now is over $2 per bunch. I used to buy this herb every week but I am thinking that north of $100 a year is just too much! How long did it take them to get those avocados from California to our fair state of Florida? The perfectness of the produce does cause me to be suspicious...

We have several Farmer's Markets in the Tampa area but not all of them are good. Fresh Market in Hyde Park and Saturday Morning Market in St. Pete are the most popular. "A farmers' market (also farmers market) is a physical retail market featuring foods sold directly by farmers to consumers. Farmers' markets typically consist of booths, tables or stands, outdoors or indoors, where farmers sell fruits, vegetables, meats, and sometimes prepared foods and beverages." - Wikipedia  

PROS: Hands on picking of fresh veggies and being outside with friends or family in the community. Helps you to eat only in season produce and support local businesses/farms. 

CONS: You get there later in the day and the zucchini you wanted is already gone (or worse-it's wilted). Open only once a week and some markets are only October thru May. What do you do the rest of the year? Sometimes they switch vegetable vendors without notice- sometimes they are organic and sometimes not... Make sure you ask. 

"Community-supported agriculture (CSA; sometimes known as community-shared agriculture) is an alternative, locally-based economic model of agriculture and food distribution. A CSA also refers to a particular network or association of individuals who have pledged to support one or more local farms, with growers and consumers sharing the risks and benefits of food production. CSA members or subscribers pay at the onset of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest; once harvesting begins, they receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit, in a vegetable box scheme."- Wikipedia  

PROS: You know where you food comes from. You know the farmer, and the people working on the farm. In fact, you often have to work a few hours on the farm as part of your membership. You can try out new vegetables so that your routine doesn't get boring. You will get a good amount of veggies each week. Bulk price for the season so you can pay at once and not worry the rest of the year- November thru May for our best local CSA, Sweetwater Farms, which is about $36 a week for a full share of the 23 week season.

CONS: You have to work on the farm as part of your membership! Yes, as part of the community supported agriculture you have to put in a little bit of your time and be a part of the community. What are you going to do with Mizuna? Or Choi? (it is a type of mustard green and bok choy respectively) Point is you HAVE to make use of the vegetables that you get in your box weather you like them or not. Bulk price for the season, so you have to pay it allll at once then you have to buy your veggies someplace else during the summer. You have to pick up the produce each week during specific times slots from the farm itself. 

Annie's Buying Club looks pretty legit and is a club that operates in a lot of locations in the area. "Buying Clubs are groups of people, usually from multiple households, who pool their time, resources, and buying power to save money on quality healthy foods. Buying Clubs order in bulk must be able meet UNFI’s order minimums. Buying Clubs are encouraged to order monthly, however we do service clubs who order bi-monthly." -United Buying Clubs 

PROS: Support organic farmers. Meet people with similar interests in your community. Get access to food from trustworthy sources. Get in season food on a weekly basis without having to go to different places: one stop shop. Can pause your membership at any time. Affordable- weekly prices. 

CONS: You have to be a part of a system, including working in that system in some small way. It is a very involved; more like a community- some people don't like that. Again you have to make use of the vegetables that you get in your box weather you like them or not. 

 Gardening is the practice of growing and cultivating plants as part of horticulture. In gardens, ornamental plants are often grown for their flowersfoliage, or overall appearance; useful plants, such as root vegetablesleaf vegetablesfruits, and herbs, are grown for consumption, for use as dyes, or for medicinal or cosmetic use. Gardening is considered to be a relaxing activity for many people. community garden (the term favored in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand) is a single piece of land gardened collectively by a group of people.-Wikipedia  The Temple Terrace and the Tampa Heights Community Garden are both well run community gardens in Tampa.

PROS: Food grown by you! You know how it was produced, cared for and what all went into making it. You need a vegetable for dinner? Just go outside and see what is ripe and available. Grow and use only what your family uses and don't have to mess with any strange veggies. You can create relativity low maintenance garden as long as you install a drip irrigation system. 

CONS: Having to take care of it daily. It may just be 10 minutes of watering or a few minutes of sprucing and pruning but you do have an ongoing project to take care of so vacationing might be hard. If your green thumb is good you might have to deal with an abundance of food and may have to freeze, or master the lost art of canning it. This is too much involvement for those with busy work or family schedules. 

So you can see that there are many different ways to get your organic veggies in our area of the sunshine state. The good news for me is that this past October we finally built a garden in our back yard!!! In the near future I plan on sharing with you my very recent gardening experience. 
What plan is best for your family?
 Would you on consider getting involved with a CSA or Buying club?

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