A Glass Half Full: How Rising Gas Prices Contribute to Fresher Foods

By: Dylan Rodgers

I like it when gas prices are high-not because my lungs often fill with hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide every time I take a breath, nor am I vindictive toward impatient drivers and their incessant honking, causing everyone (except them of course) to wear hearing aids at age 40.  The main reason that I pray for gas prices to continue skyward is because it forces us to consider other options of living.

If massive planetary hostility from rising temperatures and childhood lung illnesses aren't enough to push us towards greener living, then the only way it will happen is if we simply can't afford to continue on this sinking oil rig we call life.  But as much as it may sound like it, I am not trying to preach or mount an offensive against "Big Oil" or anything.  I really just wanted to focus on the farmer's market movement.

Because oil prices are at their highest ever price during this time of year, something that doesn't seem like it will change any time soon, people have been starting to rethink the methods of farm to table we have simply taken for granted over the years.  As a nation, we had become so comfortable with the idea that our fruits and vegetables were grown by large corporations somewhere beyond the horizon of cognition.  But as oil prices climb, people and small business farmers are getting together to cut costs.

When food is shipped from across the country, not only is it far less fresh and nutritious, its more expensive to account for the gas used to get it to your market.  But as farmer's markets grow in popularity, the consumer is now able to get fresher produce for a lower price.  That's a win-win for sure.

Here's the stats:  the USDA released a report showing locally grown foods to be a $4.8 billion industry in 2008 and is estimated to jump to $7 billion this year.  But because a bunch of numbers are hard to follow, let me put in another light. Since the 1990's, the number of farmer's markets have doubled and the number of farms selling directly to customers has jumped roughly 40 percent.

Not only are people buying into this farmer's market movement, which helps the customer, the farmer, and the local industry, we are moving back to a simpler, finer kind of market where people buy from people, not ambiguous, massive conglomerates.  The food is fresher, the prices are lower, and communities now have a better chance than ever to support themselves in an economy still riding on the brink of collapse.

Just to humor a popular scenario these days, if we somehow ended up in a post-apocalyptic style world, people with connections to farmers will be fine.  They've got the land, the resources, and the knowhow.  Everyone else that depends on Walmart or Dean and Deluca might have to consider rat farming or pigeon trapping.

The point here is that the move toward local business relationships has some real value far beyond the surface.  Less gas means fresher, more nutritious produce; less gas also means cleaner air and a potentially brighter future.

O.K. so maybe you don't believe in global warming or even care that food often isn't the freshest.  Just consider this little nugget:  economy rises and falls thereby guaranteeing our children or their children will suffer through a massive recession.  If communities were fully invested in their local farms, then the destructive nature of a recession is diffused into the community rather than into the individual families.  Here's the kicker-families won't struggle nearly as much to feed themselves.

If you ask me, that's a pretty good investment.

Photo:Urban Sea Star 

Dylan Rodgers is a writer with dreams of existential understanding and lyrical nonsense.  Share with him in the well of human experience @dylangers.wordpress.com.

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