The Price Of Responsible Food

Nathan Wiebe
This week we made our first batch of our Roasted Tomato & Lime Salsa. This salsa is very special to us. It’s made mostly from ingredients that we grew on the farm this year. The paste tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, garlic and cilantro were all grown by us. The tomatoes in particular take a very long time to grow and ripen. They come in right at the tail end of the season so we have to patiently wait all season and pray that disease and weather don’t ravage them.

We ran out of salsa many months ago so we were really excited to bring this product back and to share it with you all. If you’ve ever made salsa you know that it’s a laborious, all-day event. We spent a total of 9 hours making our salsa. We prepped all of the ingredients, roasted all of the vegetables and cooked it down for hours to get the perfect thickness. Once it was ready we had to then fill almost 40 jars and then quickly get all of the jars into the oven for a steam bath.

Once they finished in the oven we took the piping hot jars out of the oven, placed them on a cooling rack and anxiously waited to find out if they would seal properly. POP!… POP!… POP! The sweet sound of success! All of the jars we made sealed with that classic sound. Mission accomplished.

The last step we had to do was the cost analysis. We tallied up the cost of goods, the cost of the kitchen rental time and our labour. The number for the total cost was deflating, disappointing and expensive. As farmers and food producers we try our best to do everything the right way. We don’t degrade our soils with heavy machinery and ruin ecosystems with pesticide and herbicides. We don’t use exploited immigrant farmers to grow and harvest our crops. We don’t dump pollutants into the air, rivers and land. We don’t use fossil fuels to transport our food across the globe. And because we don’t do all of these things the products that we make are MORE expensive.

Does that make any sense? Why does growing and making responsible food cost more? It’s because the industrialized food system doesn’t have to pay for making our world a worse place to live. This is know as externalizing the cost. They’re able to make cheap food because they foot the bill to us in the form of a lower quality of life from polluted air, water, and soil.

The price of food at the grocery store is artificially low. We’re not paying the true cost of what it takes to produce that product. The reason the food that we make ends up costing more is because we internalize our costs - it’s what food should actually cost. Growing food takes a prodigious amount of effort. And we obviously didn’t become farmers to become rich. All we want to do is to make the best food that we can, to share that food with our community and to make a modest living. Our products are just a reflection of the true price of responsible food.