Well, I’m sorry to say that Jacob has put me on a strict diet for the next two weeks: Only two dozen eggs. No whole chicken. Not even chicken feet, for pity’s sake. But I’m promised as many necks as I want. Sausage too. Honey. And as much milk as I can manage to drink.
I think I’ll get by.
Meet Jacob: the Mennonite farmer who delivers my groceries. Every other Saturday, I drive a couple of miles to a local Park-N-Ride where Jacob, the producer of said groceries, waits with a big refrigerated truck.
I could run to the grocery store that’s just down the street from me. It’s closer. More convenient. It’s got real ceramic tiles; a coffee shop; even babysitting. In an effort to amuse the shoppers or perhaps to bring nature indoors where we like it, there’s a simulated thunderstorm in the produce aisle. Every so often, recorded thunder cracks. Lights flash on and off. Tiny nozzles spray rows of produce with jets of fresh chlorinated water.
The store has an olive bar. A sushi bar. A café on the second floor. There’s an organic section, too, where I can buy two oranges on a Styrofoam tray, the whole thing snuggly wrapped up in a layer of plastic, a reassuring yellow Organic! sticker on top. The bakery offers tantalizing breads and brownies and cakes heaped with frosting in colors no rainbow has ever displayed. An army of deli workers lines up behind a dizzying array of hams and turkeys and cheeses.
Yeah, this grocery store has it all. And perhaps that’s the problem: We are conditioned to want it all. Just this morning, I saw an ad for a cell phone company promising me that unlimited texting and unlimited dialing would lead to my unlimited happiness. Weekends, I can enjoy an all-you-can eat buffet. And when my butt gets too big and I have to upsize my jeans, I can call in an organizer to help me build shelves for my ever-expanding wardrobe. When nature begins to pull at the corners of my eyes, I can go see a plastic surgeon. And of course the dentist can brighten my smile.
We want the world, and in the process of getting that world, we end up destroying it, one purchase at a time.
Jacob has only one checkout stand—a white folding table. I queue up with the other customers and instead of reading the gossip magazines, we talk with one another. There is no simulated rain storm, but if the weather’s bad, we don’t grumble too much about having to stand out in it. Jacob doesn’t offer any babysitting or coffee. He doesn’t deal in value cards. Doesn’t take coupons, either. But when I approach the counter, he greets me by name and takes my check without asking for an ID.
Buying locally helps me to feel like a part of a community. I know exactly where my money is going and I know precisely how my groceries have been produced. Yeah, choosing to buy locally requires a shift in thinking, a change in habits: Instead of wanting more and bigger and new and improved; instead of demanding that everything be available when I want it, I’ve had to learn to work within the cycle of nature.
In three weeks, my CSA pickups will begin. Soon the local farms will open their strawberry and asparagus fields. And if I play my cards right, I may be able to stay out of that grocery store until November.
I won't miss the thunderstorm.