Comparing local and store-bought organic produce 6


The Organic Adventurer has written much in other venues about buying locally, shopping for organic food and how buying organic compares to buying conventional. Back in May, when the CSA we subscribe to had so much remaining in the fields at the end of the Florida growing season that they offered a mini-season share, we set out to see if our dread of impending off-season grocery shopping was justified. We wondered: How does buying local organic veggies compare with buying organic veggies in the stores? Which is more expensive? Is there as much or less variety? We did an item-for-item comparison with one week’s share, and here’s what we found:

Week four of the spring mini-season means a varied share for KYV members. The bounty includes a member’s-choice mix of zucchini and squash, cucumber, sweet corn, fennel, yellow heirloom tomatoes, large pink heirloom tomatoes, eggplant, green beans, acorn squash, arugula, yum-yum peppers, an optional mix of Padrón and Poblano peppers and an optional three pounds of potatoes. Whew, that’s a lot of local organic produce! But let’s see how that compares with what can be found in stores.

A bountiful CSA share

In the past few years, Publix (a major grocery chain in Florida) has expanded its Greenwise organic produce section and has made some effort to purchase locally when possible. Still, much of the organic produce there is available only as individually shrink-wrapped items from California or Mexico. All told, Publix has the lowest prices on two of the items considered for price comparison although, again, they aren’t necessarily from local producers.

Whole Foods has many of the organic items that were not available at Publix. The items at Whole Foods come from California, Canada, Florida and a mixed Mexico/Florida source. In short, of the 11 items in this week’s share (potatoes and Padrón/Poblano peppers are not included as they are optional), six can’t be found as organic choices in the stores. KYV clearly comes out on top as far as the variety of produce and carbon footprint in food miles. It also comes out on top for convenience, as one would have to visit two stores to get as close as possible to re-creating this week’s share at the lowest possible price.

The bottom line for many of us, however, is just that—price. Although we have to substitute red, non-heirloom tomatoes for KYV’s heirloom yellows and bell peppers for the yum-yums, KYV also comes out on top as far as cost. Those who purchased the six-week share pay $29 for this week’s produce; the three-week half share comes out to $31. The same organic items at Publix and Whole Foods cost $40.51, and that does not include corn, the large pink heirloom tomatoes, arugula or acorn squash, which aren’t available as organic selections at either store. If one chose to purchase the available non-organic items, the total would be $49.87. You’d still be out of luck with arugula, which isn’t available at all in either store.

Once again this week, KYV can’t be beat for quality local organic food!

Well, it’s the end of July now. Fortunately, the butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash from the last mini-season share have kept well, so we’re still eating those. We’ve still got a few items from the season in the freezer. Also, our CSA had an end-of-season potluck and potato picking, and we’re just now nearing the end of the potatoes we picked. (Honestly, if you’re lucky enough to have a CSA that does them, you can get crazy extra value out of your subscription with those you-pick bonuses.) Between all that and the farmers markets, we’ve managed to reduce our reliance on the grocery stores this summer, but we are more than ready for the CSA season to start up again!

CSA members picking potatoes

By the way, the CSA we subscribe to (www.kyvfarm.com) is a single-farm operation, so all of the items in the share that we used for comparison were grown on the same farm, not bought from other (potentially non-local) farms and re-sold. If you’re thinking of joining a CSA in order to eat locally, be aware that some CSAs do buy some of their items from elsewhere to include in their shares. The CSA managers should be more than willing to tell you which items they are, where they come from and how they were grown though. Oh, and we may as well mention…KYV still has some subscriptions available!

The KYV farming family


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6 thoughts on “Comparing local and store-bought organic produce

  • Alex ojeda

    Hey, loved the article. You obviously live in my area.

    I was wondering why you didn’t use Native Sun or Grassroots when you made the comparison? Whole Foods is the worst of the three for organics and they often have the highest prices. It makes Publix look like a viable option to do this comparison. Publix really doesn’t care, they just do it because Winn Dixie is doing it (and WD does it better, in my opinion -I still don’t shop there :). I feel like the comparison between Winn-Dixie and a local organic store would be cool for the next shoot-out.

    By the way, KYV IS AMAZING! Thank you for highlighting them. They do it right and are in our own backyard. It’s run by two very nice people and their family. They share knowledge and seeds and are hard working… I just can’t say enough good about them.

    Again, great article!

    • The Organic Adventurer

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Alex ojeda! I was going for “big box” comparison with this particular article, specifically one that is supposed to specialize in organic/natural products, and one “regular” grocery store. The object is to compare local organic produce prices and availability with prices and availability at places where, by the numbers, most people shop (that would be “regular” grocery stores like Publix and Winn-Dixie). I just threw in Whole Foods this time because it seemed logical that if a person was looking specifically for organic, that would be the big-name-recognition place they would head to. Future shoot-outs will appear in the KYV monthly email newsletter, so make sure you’re getting that. Winn-Dixie could be next! Again, thanks for commenting!

    • The Organic Adventurer

      Hi Norma Hawkinson! That’s good to know about the WD. The big chain grocery stores rarely do have much organic. When they do, it’s usually from very far away and over-packaged. You’d have better luck with the small, independent, locally owned stores like Native Sun or Grassroots or Whole Foods in a pinch. Sadly, none of those are very close to OP, but you could hit one of those when you have an errand that takes you near them. Of course, joining a CSA, if you haven’t already, will give you plenty of organic produce during the season. Thanks for reading and commenting! Hope to see you around here often!

  • pete

    my problem is what soil do we have that makes organic produce when everything id contaminated…what pure soil do we have thar confirms it..

    • The Organic Adventurer Post author

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Pete! While our soils are definitely not what they used to be, and it would be so beneficial to us all if, as a country, we focused on building and decontaminating our soil, the soil on certified organic farms must meet certain requirements for levels of chemical residues, etc. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s better than what we’re doing to the soil on conventional farms. We would encourage everyone to get to know an organic farmer and talk with him or her about what is required. You can read a little bit about it here: http://annarabhan.com/EU_PDF/EU_2011_04_P11-12_USDAOrganic.pdf. Also, look into biodynamic farming and permaculture. It’s great that you’re aware of soil quality issues, and we hope you’ll help others become aware of it too because our lives depend on our soil! Thanks again for reading and commenting!