Sunday, February 26, 2012

Survey Results: Local Food In Your Life

PLEASE NOTE:  If you'd like to be a part of the next Farming Portland food survey, sign up!  Even if I emailed you last time, I will need you to submit your email so I can have a valid list.

A couple weeks ago I published a local food survey.  I was curious to find out how much people spend, where they shop, and what their impressions are.  There were 124 responses from people all over the country.  The survey even went international with one response from Holland!

A big Thank You to everyone who completed the survey.  The results are interesting and have a couple surprises too.

Some General Observations
Labeling needs to be clear and understandable.  Sustainable food especially has to address this.  Most people have little idea where their food comes from and how it was produced.  When we think of the problems with over-fishing, this should be a top priority for food manufacturers.

Price is a problem.  I've often remarked that it is a mistake to position "local" food as a premium product because it limits the growth of the local food economy.  The survey results seem to support that.  Price is a strong factor when people shop.  People are only willing and able to spend so much (around $150 per week). If the prices at the store are too high for local, sustainable, and/or organic food, then most people choose not to buy those things.  If local is going to be everyday, it has to have everyday prices.  Same with organic and sustainable foods.

Food spending at $100-$150 per week remains consistent regardless of the type of store people shop at.  What does change is the number of people involved.  2 person households skew toward premium grocery stores while 4 person households skew toward standard grocery stores.  To me, this means cost is a stronger factor.

2 person and 4 person households in the survey ranked pretty similar when it came to their cooking styles. 78% of two person and 74% of 4 person households were likely to cook from scratch several times a week or practically every day.  This is interesting because it shows that the business of family life--kids, school, etc.--does not seem to be a hindrance to cooking from scratch.

72% of 2 person households reported that they enjoyed cooking while 39% also indicated that they had busy lives.  While 4 person households also reported that they enjoy cooking (62%),  the same percentage were also more likely to point out that their lives are busy and they need quick and easy meals.

Shopping Habits

What do people look for when they are shopping?  
  • 81% local
  • 79% organic
  • 69% seasonal
  • 64% fresh
  • 63% ripeness
  • 56% sustainable
  • 37% low sugar
  • 9% fat free

Where do people shop for their food?

  • Big Box Stores -- 63% never, 17% only for something special, 6% regarded it as standard
  • Discount Grocery -- 67% never, 6% standard
  • Normal Grocery Stores -- 51% standard, 12% never 
  • Premium Grocery -- 40% standard, 27% when they can, 23% for special items only
  • Specialty Stores -- 42% for special items, 24% never, 19% when they can, 6% said this was their standard
  • Farmers' Markets -- 61% when they can, 15% standard, 8% never
  • Clubs/CSA - 57% never, 13% standard, 12% not available
  • Stands and Carts -- 43% never, 37% when they can, 4% standard

Organic Food  
Most people appreciate organic food, but price and people's understanding of what organic really means are obstacles for this group.

71% had a positive disposition toward organic food.
50% were concerned about price.
7% expressed confusion or concern about what "organic" means and the certification process.

Organic food gets a bigger backlash than I had predicted.  7% were either confused about what "organic" means or openly complained about the certification process.  
  • "I think the certification process is a sham."
  • "the lowered organic standards now in effect concern me". 
  • "The term can be misleading. Many uncertified farms are offering better quality food than organic stuff you can get in a huge store. Practices are what counts."
  • "I don't think the certification is the last, or only word though."
  • "It is good but labeling can be misleading; organic is not always best"
  • "tough to know exactly what "organic" means - but it's better than processed"
  • "I'd like to know what food is truly organic and what just passes the checklist and can label it 'organic'."
Also, organic got the biggest ding for being overpriced.  50% of respondents remarked that the price of organic food as an issue.  Are producers price gouging for items labeled "organic"?  It's possible and people are noticing.  
  • "I would eat more if it wasn't so expensive."
  • "The cost of organic stands in my way. I am the only income, so I have to be careful with my budget. If I could afford it, I would everything organic."
  • "Expensive at times"
  • "We eat it all the time, but it bothers me that it costs so much more.  We still pay though."
  • "it's expensive but worth it."

Sustainably Produced Food 
This food label seems important, but not well understood or identified.

72% had a positive dispostion toward sustainable food
27% expressed concern about the price of sustainably produced  food
12% expressed confusion over sustainable food, especially identification and labeling.

Surprisingly, 1% more people had a positive disposition toward sustainable food than organic food.  However, 12% also had trouble understanding and/or identifying sustainable food at the grocery store. 
  • "Right now it feels like just a trendy catch phrase."
  • "unsure how to know/find"
  • "It's hard to find"
  • "Many products don't easily show on their packaging how they are produced.  If it were easier to tell that thing were sustainably produced, I'd be more likely to buy that product."
  • "Without set standards it is hard to verify it's truly sustainability"
  • "I don't know what to look for."
  • "Don't know if the food is sustainable."
  • "I may already buy sustainably produced food, but I am not sure. I wish there was a label for that."
  • "not quite sure how to know it since I shop at Fred Meyer"
  • "no label info that I know of."
  • "Another thing I just don't know how to find the information on and would love to know more."
Local Food  
Variety and availability were an issue for local food eaters.  Like "sustainable" food, price was an issue for some, but not to the same extent as organic food.

85% had a positive disposition toward local food. 
25% expressed difficulties finding local food.  
27% said price was an issue.  
15% said there was not enough variety
  • "Very short growing season"
  • "I'm really big on bananas, avocados and mangos...hard "
  • "Not always easy to achieve "
  • "I would love to eat local but I don't know where to get it"
  • "seasonal winter"
  • "no convient locations"
  • "I would like to try to eat more locally, but I tend to eat foods that are in season year round, and I want what I want."
  • "Not all nutritional needs can be filled local year round, thus seasonal."
  • "I would not limit myself to only local due to food preferences (eg. oranges, bananas, etc.)"
  • "Life just wouldn't be the same without lemons, mangoes and bananas."
  • "I'd get it if I they had local farmers markets (that are open year round) by my home or if I could easily go to Sauvie's Island more."
  • "We've had fresh, local food delivered to our house two different times.  Once was great, and once they shut down and kept all of our money.  I'm leery of doing that again."
  • "Accessibility is an issue. I need it in my store or at my door."
75% of respondents were from Oregon.  
7% were from California.    
The remaining 18% were from 11 other states and Holland (one response).

13% of responses were from households with only one person.
29% were from two person households.
23% were from three person households.
27% were from four person households.
5% were from five person households.
3% were from households with six or more people.

25% spend less than $100 per week on food.
42% spend $100 to $150 per week.
17% spend $150 to $200 per week.
12% spend $200 to $250 per week.
4% spend $250 or more on food every week.

68% of respondents said they enjoy cooking.
50% of respondents said their life was busy and they needed quick and easy meals.
9% said someone else cooks for them
9% of respondents said they don't like to cook.

46% cook from scratch practically everyday
28% cook from scratch a few times a week
19% cook from scratch when they have time on the weekend
2% said they cook from scratch only for special occasions.
5% said they could not remember the last time they cooked from scratch.

16% use coupons all the time.  57% rarely.  27% never.

85% had never participated in a food challenge.

78% of respondents look online for cooking ideas
61% of respondents collect cookbooks
48% of respondents talk to their friends about cooking ideas.
23% of respondents have a cooking app for ideas
3% of respondents belong to a cooking club

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Cheese Steak: Eating Local in Philadelphia

Don't forget to take the Local Food in Your Life survey. Results posted at the end of the month.

Last week I spent 24 hours in Philadelphia.  I've been unsure what to say about this experience.  On one hand, you have all the historical things.  Philadelphia is truly the birth place of our country.  The First Continental Congress.  The Declaration of Independence.  The home town of Benjamin Franklin.  George Washington had a house here.  In 1776, Philadelphia became the birth place of freedom and the American revolution.
Independence Hall

Not only is it the birth place of freedom, it is also the birth place of the maximum security prison.   In 1829--just 53 years after the cause of freedom and liberty was struck--construction was started on Eastern State Penitentiary.  This building would become the model for more than 300 subsequent penitentiaries around the world.  Ironically, the architect of the prison conceived of his vision for the prison while having dinner at Benjamin Franklin's house.
Guard tower outside cell block one.
Cell Block One.  Originally there were no doors.
The accommodations

There really is a statue of Rocky, and the "Rocky Steps" leading up to Philadelphia Art Museum are a tourist attraction unto themselves.  The statue of Rocky seemed silly to me at first, but after spending a day in Philly, it started to have a meaning.  I get the sense that this is a city that needed a modern hero.  There are so many statues of dead people who did amazing things in Philly a long time ago.  It is a city living in the shadow of itself.  It's an interesting juxtaposition to think of the modern hero Rocky in comparison to historical heavy weights Franklin and Washington.  One city--how times have changed.

The cheese steak is as much the local food as Rocky is the local hero.

This is the train-wreck of a cheese steak I got at the airport.
I ate four cheese steaks in my time in Philadelphia.  Unfortunately, none of them were from Geno's or Pat's.  Jim's on South street had a line around the block in the rain, so I decided to pass.  The cheese steak I got from George's in Reading Terminal was undoubtedly the best of the ones I did get.  But, they were all generally the same:

  • French roll
  • Shaved beef
  • Melted Cheese (either american, provolone or "sauce")
  • Onions and peppers are always optional

If you like a little gastronomy with your history, there is one place definitely worth checking out.  The City Tavern is the tavern that the founding fathers hung out in.  Now restored, they offer a colonial style menu, but more importantly they have Ales of the Revolution (from Yards Brewing who makes a mighty good IPA).  You can drink the beers that founded this country!

George Washington's Tavern Porter.  Based on a recipe on file in the Rare Manuscripts Room of the NY Public Library.  Although it's labeled a Porter, seemed more like a CDA.

Thomas Jefferson's 1774 Tavern Ale.  Jefferson's original recipe. Apparently he was a home brewer.  This one seemed more like a smooth american style amber.  A bit of hops, some spruce flavors, with a clean finish.  

Poor Richard's Tavern Spruce.  Franklin's recipe actually written when he was in Paris.  Very smooth, almost like a cream ale. No hoppiness at all.  Vanilla and a hit of molasses.

Alexander Hamilton's Federalist Ale. A light ale that I assume has some connection to Hamilton.  Very light in color but hoppy--almost like a fresh hop ale.  I thought there was a hit of walnut flavors in there somehow.

If you have 24 hours in Philadelphia, here are some things to do:

View 24 Hours in Philly in a larger map

Saturday, February 11, 2012

6 Ways to Make Valentine's Day Local

Don't forget to take the Local Food in Your Life survey. Results posted at the end of the month.

Photo by Box Me Up and Ship Me Out

It starts off as a cliche:  I'm standing in the aisle at the grocery store, looking at a wall of imported foods.  I'm leaning over the case at the jewelry store, gazing at sparkly things from around the world.  I'm walking between the rows of flowers harvested thousands of miles away and flown in.

Everywhere we look, we're surrounded by wonderful things collected from around the world and transported directly into our neighborhoods.  Sometimes we don't even think about how many things and ingredients and components from other lands are included in our everyday life.  This valentine's day, I'm taking a moment to think about my buying choices, and trying to find a way to support my local economy by buying local.  Here are six ways you can make a difference and substitute a local item for something imported.

1.  Fruity Drinks
Eating out is maybe the most common way of celebrating Valentine's day with the one we love.  Those cocktails are filled with tropical fruits and liquors brought in from far away places.
Fruity Drink photo by Miss Peach
Local alternative:  Rogue beer.  The Chateau Rogue label of Rogue Brewery is 100% local ingredients and a perfect substitute for imported mixed fruity drinks.  Rogue pub in the Pearl has a good  supply.

2.  Flowers
Everyone gives flowers on Valentine's day.  Their bright colors light up any room.  It's too bad they are cut by impoverished child workers, flown around the hemisphere in a day, and trucked across the land to get to the store in time.

Local alternative.  Red Kale.  This colorful and hearty winter green is not only beautiful but edible.  Available wherever local veggies are sold.

3.  Chocolates
These sweet morsels are the classic gift to give to your sweety.  Unfortunately there is nothing local about the cacao and sugar needed to make these.

Local alternative:  Six cleaned trout. Locally and sustainably caught trout can be a great alternative to foreign mass-produced candy.  Ask Flying Fish Company what they have in stock.
Photo by Cobalt_grrl
4.  Jewelry
Although it is very common to make your partner's eyes shine with precious gems, jewelry is nearly always trucked in from somewhere far away where it was probably extracted from the ravaged ground of a destroyed ecosystem.

Local alternative: Raw oysters.  These little gems always say "I love you" and their legendary aphrodisiac qualities can give a little boost to the second half of your Valentine's day.  Yeowzers!  Check Eat to find great oysters in Portland.
Photo by mindync

Photo by Dyste's Grocery
5.  Perfume
Many people like giving and getting perfume on Valentine's day. Sometimes there is nothing better than dressing up and smelling good.  Unfortunately, these little bottles of scented chemicals are filled with unpronounceable tinctures from the corners of the earth.

Local alternative:  5 lbs. chuck roast.  What would be better than the down home aroma of a hearty stew simmering on the stove.  5 lbs. slab of locally raised red meat is just the thing you need.

6.  Lingerie
Although this is usually a gift for yourself rather than the other person, lingerie is something many people buy on Valentines' day for the loved one.  However, almost all lingerie is made from synthetic materials derived from petroleum products making this outfit not only imported, but a sure way to increase your carbon butt-print.

Local alternative:  A block of butter.  Just because it tastes better than polyester.  And it's spreadable.  Available from any of the local dairies, like Noris Dairy.
Hopefully this has been helpful.  Take a few minutes this year to find ways to make your Valentine's Day more local.  Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Farming Portland Survey and Favorite Sources Tab

The Farming Portland Food Survey
There are so many reasons not to eat local and sustainable.  I know that in my house, we've tried and failed many times to eat more local, to support our local food economy, and to eat less industrial food.  But the demands of work and life make the convenience of grocery stores undeniable. 

How does your family handle these challenges?  What resources do you rely on to feed your family?  Please take a couple minutes to fill out this 100% anonymous survey.  I'd love to learn more about how your family handles these challenges.  I'll post the results at the end of the month. 
    • 100% anonymous.
    • This survey should take less than 2 minutes of your time.
    • Check back later in the month to see the results..

Also, this week I am launching the:

The Farming Portland Favorite Oregon Sources Tab
This is something I've been thinking of creating for a long time.  There are so many really good sources for sustainable food here in the Portland area, but not everyone knows about them.  Because I've been asked many times what sources I like for this or that, a local resource page seemed like a good idea.  This won't be everything, just the things that I like.  I'll work on updating it as more things cross my path.

  • Links to responsible local sources
  • I'll be updating this over time with more information
  • Great vendors you might not have known about