Sunday, May 13, 2012

Every once in a while we buy produce from the grocery store to do a comparison. We like to check out the competition. We are also simply curious as to the overall quality of what is available in the produce section.
Our current evaluation was with strawberries. I bought a pound of what appears to be a modern standard for commercial strawberries. We looked at many factors and below is a little tally. Mind you we attempted to be objective.

Conventional (minus 2) on left, FSF/Local on right

Conventional:  All different shades of red, white and green, some unripe fruit
Fair Share Farm: All red or deep orange fruit.

Size of berry
Conventional: All were palm-sized, 13 berries per 1 lb package
Fair Share Farm: From small to thumb-sized, 43 berries per 1lb+ package

Conventional: Hollow with white flesh
Fair Share Farm: Red throughout

Conventional: One berry half covered in mold, bruising on most.
Fair Share Farm: All berries in good to excellent condition. No significant bruising.

Conventional: Depended, berries were crunchy as if not ripe. Ripest part had good flavor, sweet and tart.
Fair Share Farm: Juicy and tart with some sweetness.

Conventional on top, FSF/Local on bottom

There is more to the story too. We use what are called biological (organic) methods to grow the crops. Strawberries are fed organic fertilizer and mulched with straw. We work to promote soil life to help keep the plants alive. The plants are treated as perennials, so we keep them from year to year, reducing tillage.

Conventional berries are grown on plastic mulch. The soil is fumigated and sterilized with methyl bromide, an ozone depleting chemical that is still allowed for agricultural use. Synthetic fertilizer is fed to the plants for immediate uptake, kind of like an IV.

I am amazed by the size of the conventional berries. It is almost scary...actually it is scary. And, this being America, you can mark my words that in another 5 years they will be even bigger. If spam doesn't make you feel inadequate, this sure tries.

Several years ago I emailed one of the commercial strawberry producers to ask them what their growing practices were. I got back a letter where pretty much the only thing they said was they were in compliance with the law with everything they do.

A main point these companies make, however, is that people need fresh fruit for a healthy diet and that is what they are providing. I do agree that there is a need for fresh fruit in everyone'd diet. The rest is a complex issue.

We would love to hear your strawberry experiences and how they relate to our comparison.


Emily said...

I have a friend who calls bad grocery strawberries "radish strawberries" because they're totally white inside. Not the case with FSF berries! Julia and I ate an entire quart Weds night ("bawries," she calls them) - so delicious!

Liz said...

All I can say is...
This example is exactly the reason we struggle everyday to farm!
Luv ya

Dan Vlamis said...

FWIW, we have a few strawberries at our home. The berries are smaller than store bought and taste delicious like FSF berries, but many times the bugs/? get them before we do. My point is that home-grown and FSF berries are just SO much better than grocery store berries!

Dan V