Is it? Yes. We admit, our produce IS a little more expensive than most. However, there are a couple of reasons for this beyond our sustainable methods, our all-heirloom produce and beyond organic nutritional value, which I will discuss here.
First, it is important to take note of the market that we are dealing with here. For instance, are we talking about expensive for Colorado? For Denver? For a CSA? For Colorado Springs? Compared to the Grocery Store? For the first three, Colorado, Denver or CSA the reality is that our produce is not priced high at all - especially for Denver and especially for a CSA (who receive up to a 35% discount). We could, therefore, sell our produce exclusively to Denver and by doing so raise our prices an additional 25% or more. Believe me, the price for Farmer's Market produce in Denver, even for NON-ORGANIC produce, is exorbitant. We could also get out of the CSA business all together and only sell at Farmer's Markets. But that's not why we are in this business. We love what we do. We have a passion for growing (and feeding people) pure, sustainable food, and beautiful food. We also love you, our customers. We love the community. We love being a part of something bigger than us and we love doing something that matters.
So what matters? Well, for starters, getting pure, local, fresh food into the bellies of those that either can't afford it, or don't have access to it. Colorado Springs, and especially the surrounding area of El Paso County is a food desert. The definition of a "Food Desert" according to the USDA is as follows:
"1. They qualify as "low-income communities", based on having: a) a poverty rate of 20 percent or greater, OR b) a median family income at or below 80 percent of the area median family income; AND
2. They qualify as "low-access communities", based on the determination that at least 500 persons and/or at least 33% of the census tract's population live more than one mile from a supermarket or large grocery store (10 miles, in the case of non-metropolitan census tracts)." (http://apps.ams.usda.gov/fooddeserts/foodDeserts.aspx)
Below is a map of El Paso County. All the areas shaded in Pink are Low-Access Areas
Below is a similar map of El Paso County reflecting Low-Income Areas.
Below is a combined image: Both Low-Income and Low-Access.
Now, one must keep all of this in perspective. Unfortunately, when placed in context and kept in perspective, it gets much worse. These definitions by the USDA do not include "Local Food." They also do not include "Organic" or "Pure," "Fresh" food. Simply stated, the USDA defines these deserts as access to a "Supermarket or Large Grocery Store." The truth is that only 1-2% of the food in El Paso County is local. Of that 1-2%, a much smaller portion is considered "Organic" and an even much lesser portion is considered "Pure."
So what am I getting at? I am trying to explain the things that matter. The reason for our existence as a small, local, "pure-food" farm in El Paso County is so that we can make a difference in people's lives. For those that can afford the food and have access to it, does it make a difference? Well, according to our many customers and the feedback we receive, yes it does make a difference. But what about all those people that are on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits that, simply-put, cannot afford access to healthy food? We aren't talking about lazy bums and deadbeat dads that are so often the stereotypical SNAP recipient. Do those exist? Sure. Will we help them too? Of course. But for those of you who struggle with this idea, we are talking about the working poor. Say what you want about those on SNAP benefits, but the truth is, many of them are the hardest working individuals in this country! Often, they are blue-collar workers who wake up at the break of dawn and end their day just in time to kiss their children to bed at night. These are people who are struggling to feed themselves and their families the basics, never mind actually healthy food, in an economy where you have individuals with MBA degrees working two minimum-wage jobs (read the book "The Working Poor", by David Shippler), with two or more children at home, and are barely making ends meet. Want more? Watch the movie "A Place at the Table" to learn about these hard working individuals who are doing everything they can to feed their children, but are living in a food desert just like ours.
I digress. Here's my point...
We, Ahavah Farm, double all SNAP benefits. We also give away literally hundreds of dollars of food per week. We do have "Suggested" prices that may be higher than the grocery store or even some other farms, but we also allow those who are struggling to pay what they can and take what they want and need. When you purchase food from Ahavah Farm you are doing more than paying for Sustainable agriculture, no-till farming that cares for our soil and our environment, beyond organic growing methods, 100% heirloom produce which means a better taste and higher nutritional content and supporting a small, local farm. When you purchase food from Ahavah Farm you are also making a difference. Yes, our prices are a little higher for those that can afford it, but by your purchases we are able to provide pure food to those that need it the most. It might not be much, and we may sound a little idealistic, but it is something. By the end of the season we will have given away hundreds of pounds of food and thousands of dollars of irreplaceable nutrition because of you!
So next time you think "Boy, your food is really expensive," keep in mind what you are really paying for and also who you are feeding through your support.