Locally grown produce has been making headlines lately. Health magazines tout the benefits of eating small-farm and organic produce, chambers of commerce urge citizens to “buy local,” and frugal moms blog about the money they save by buying at farmers’ markets. And Turlock is right in the middle of the eating local frenzy, with a plethora of fruits and vegetables available at local produce stands.
Produce stands are a common sight around the Central Valley. Many residents take for granted the cornucopia of freshness available every few blocks in the summertime. However, the recent economic recession has Turlockers flocking to big-box stores in droves to save money on everything from cherries to shampoo. But is there any real benefit to buying produce at the supermarket, as opposed to a local fruit stand?
LocalHarvest.org estimates that grocery store produce travels an average of 1,500 miles from the grower to the store. Fruits and vegetables are anywhere from four days to a week old before they are placed in bins at retail grocery outlets. The specific destination of most produce is not mentioned at retail stores, aside from the country of origin. Many Central Valley residents prefer to buy their produce from stands located directly on family-owned farms.
“You know where it comes from when you buy it from the stand. And I think it’s important to support the local economy,” said Sandy Brewer, who was purchasing melon and other fruits from a roadside stand in Turlock on Friday afternoon.
The cost of purchasing fruit or vegetables from a supermarket includes not just money paid to the grower, but also transportation and other fees. Buying directly from the grower cuts out middlemen and other fees and keeps money in the local economy.
Dena Cipponeri, who owns Cipponeri family farms along with her husband Sebastian Cipponeri, said that customers are generally more concerned about money than they were five years ago.
“People used to buy quite a bit of fruit. Now they’re aware of waste and I can hear them saying things like ‘what are we going to do with all of this?’ They’re a lot more conscious of the amount they’re buying because they don’t have the money,” Cipponeri said.
Cipponeri has also noticed that families will go out of their way to buy fruit from a stand. She said that the Cipponeri stand has regular customers who come in every week.
“Once they eat at a fruit stand, they tend to keep coming back,” she said.
Fruit stands are also recognized by several government programs as sources of healthy food for people on a limited income. Cipponeri said that her stand accepts WIC and special vouchers that provide produce for senior citizens.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.