Made in America

The other day, a coworker told me about a woman he knows who is against farmers’ markets because of how dirty they are, and who claimed that supermarkets were invented to remove people from that. Aside from how wholly ignorant this woman clearly is about how her food is made, it got me thinking a bit about how there’s a backlash right now against the idea of local, sustainable, and organic food. A post made yesterday by the brain trust over at DieHipster looks at an article about “artisanal America” and complains that hipsters are behind the movement, and that, in their pretention, they’re claiming to reinvent everything.

But honestly, those are two of the dumbest arguments against the movement I’ve ever heard. I just can’t understand why someone would be against supporting local farms, factories, or workers. Unless you’re being paid off by Wal-Mart or some big box store, why wouldn’t you want to support the people who live and work around you? Would you honestly rather say “I’d rather go to Key Food and buy a steak, than to John the butcher down the block”? I’ll point out that I’m not clarifying who John is. He could be some recent transplant who just opened a store, or he could be the fourth generation in his family to run the shop. And here in New York, that’s rather likely.

In this city especially, it’s really easy to support the small stores around you. When I was growing up my parents would always go to the green grocer on our corner of Queens Boulevard. They didn’t go there for ideological reasons, of course, but just because it was way faster, easier, and the food there was overall better. My mom used to drive to Astoria to get fresh fish because it was better there than at the supermarket. When you think of New York pizza and bagels, you don’t think of Papa John’s and Thomas’ bagels; you think of that place down the block where they make their own stuff. And that’s not artisanal or pretentious – it’s just some person with a storefront who makes stuff.

Now yes, the hipsters who have moved in have sort of hijacked the idea of local and handmade, and I can understand how people would be upset with that. Hell, I don’t like the hipsters for the same reason – they make me feel somewhat lesser just because I don’t always buy organic, or because I have a job and pay my own bills and all that. But I do also shop at the farmers’ market and try to buy local when it’s possible, but not because I want to win a dick-measuring contest with some kid down in Brooklyn whose daddy is paying their rent; I do it because it’s cheaper, and it tastes better.

I guess what my point is is that you can support your local shops and people without shunning it because of ideology. It would be totally unfair to blame the local butcher because a bunch of hipsters started shopping there. He just wants to keep going the store that his grandparents started, and if he has to serve them, so be it. (Side note: it’d be illegal for him to turn away people just because he didn’t like the way they look.) So go and shop there, or at any of the local places, and just roll your eyes the people you don’t like.

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 10:23 am - essays

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on July 14, 2010 at 11:04 am, ds said:

This is probably the first time ever I’ve heard farmers’ markets and locally produced food called inexpensive. Ever been to Price Choppa?

on July 14, 2010 at 11:29 am, chuck said:

No, but I know of them. It’s irrelevant, though; the closest Price Chopper to New York is at least fifty miles out. Compare farmers’ market prices to what you can find in an NYC supermarket – Key Food, C-Town, D’Agostino, etc. – and you’ll find that the prices are very comparable.

And anyway, the greenmarket I go to has corn for 50 cents apiece, or deals like 5 for $2. During the winter I pay $1/lb for onions, potatoes, and carrots. New York apples can be found for $1.50/lb nearly all year long.

on July 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm, ds said:

OK, fair enough – I can imagine NYC being so expensive that even farmers’ markets seem like a good deal. Not the case in most of the country – I pay double for every indulgence at the farmers’ market compared to the local supermarket. Remember Hamilton’s farmers’ market? I don’t think it was an affordable alternative even to the terrible GU.