Urban life often limits the amount of garden space to the number of pots you can fit on a balcony or window sill. With these kinds of restrictions, growing everything you want to put in your food stores is impossible. For those reasons, any people purchase prepacked foods in cans, boxes, and foil packets. But that does little to soothe the minds of those who would prefer to put up fresh grown produce, free of chemicals.
Organic foods purchased in grocery stores or markets are expensive compared to other commercially pre-packaged foods. When you spend that kind of money on organic foods, the tendency is to want to eat it right away, not can or freeze it.
There are things you can do to get the quality produce you want without breaking the bank. It will take a bit of research and networking, but it can be done. Prepare to contact growers in January or before planting season starts to strike up a deal. Now is a good time to start. The earlier you contact growers, the better your chance of getting what you need.
Who or what is a grower? A grower is anyone who uses their land to produce food. Anyone. That means it could be a homeowner with 1/8 acre to 5 acres of land or someone out in the country on hundreds or thousands of acres. The keys are knowing who the growers are and what you want.
Start by getting a “what is in season” list within the region you are willing to travel. You can get these from county agriculture extension offices, garden clubs, and some local nurseries may have information to share.
Plan your budget according to what you wish to put up for a one year supply. If money is tight (and when isn’t it?) try to skim off a few percent of the dollars to spend on produce and canning or freezing it. As the price of everything continues to rise, it will be difficult to budget exactly what you need. Over time, you will find your food bill goes down as the amount of stored goods increases.
The first year you might spend a little more on jars if you just starting out. To justify this, buy cases of jars instead of eating dinner out. Skip the movies this week and buy two more cases of jars. Before you know it, you will have enough jars to line your shelves.
Find growers who may be willing to grow what you order. These producers often sell animal as well as fruits and vegetables. Perhaps you will need to pay them half up front and the other half when you take delivery. Take the time to get to know them to get the best possible price. Get a receipt that explains exactly what you are exchanging.
Some growers may allow you a share of the produce in exchange for your labor. You apply for a part time non-cash paid job. Get it in writing. Be sure to spell out how many hours you will work per week, how much each hour is worth, and how many pounds of each produce you will get in return. This requires you to do pricing research well in advance. Take into account the wholesale price and the retail price of the products you want. If you are lucky enough to get such a deal, make certain you work hard on the farm, work every hour you agree, don’t complain, and are always on time. You will want to be invited back year after year.
If by chance you and your friends have yards of any size, get together and form a co-op of your own. Even the tiniest sliver of dirt next to a house or sidewalk can make excellent gardens. Take out the grass and put in fruits and vegetables appropriate to your region and available sunlight. By devoting the yards to specific produce, using bio-intense methods, and sharing, everyone in the co-op will get a variety produce.
Lastly, “You Pick” farms offer great prices on perfectly ripe fruit. Bring your bushel baskets, boxes and bags to pick all the produce you want at reduced prices over markets and stores. Usually you pay “per pound”. These are also good places to offer your labor in exchange of produce. If you are going on a weekend trip, perhaps adding a you-pick farm to your sight-seeing might be a welcome alternative to tourist traps.
By combining all these resources, preppers should be able to find enough produce at reasonable prices, the cost of time, or nearly free. Most importantly, it takes planning many months in advance. The rewards are worth it.
Here are a few links to get you started.
Pick Your Own Farm Directory (Incomplete)