Fresh organic produce isn’t expensive if you know the right people!
When you’re think about canning or preserving in bulk, don’t get intimidated by the price of fresh, organic produce. You can save money buying organic produce in quantity – which you need to do anyway for canning, preserving and fermenting projects. As you teach yourself to buy organic and to buy local, start connecting directly with local farmers.
The first year we decided to try buying in bulk organic tomatoes were selling for $4.00 a pound at the growers market. We bought 100 pounds of tomatoes for $1.00 a pound. Turns out we ran out of tomatoes for our canning! The following year we ordered 150 pounds and for the last two years 300 pounds. The price of tomatoes fluctuates some year to year but by buying directly from the farmer we always get them way below what we would pay retail.
The easiest ways to get to know local farmers is at your local farmer’s market
Go around the market to see who is there, who has the produce you’re looking for and who has good prices. Buy the same produce, like tomatoes from a couple of stands for taste testing purposes. The next week, go early before the stands are too busy (or about an hour before the market closes if you’re not an early bird) strike up a conversation by telling the farmer how much you enjoyed the tomatoes last week and that you are planning on canning tomatoes this season. Ask when they will be at the top of production for tomatoes and if they ever sell in bulk.
The farmer usually asks how many pounds you will need in order to make sure it’s going to be worth his/her time. Here is where having a canning buddy comes in handy as you can buy twice as much produce which helps the farmer to give you a better price.
Make it easy and your farmer will make it worth your while
There are several things you can do to help the farmer give you the best price he/she can afford. Buy at the height of the season when they are over run with tomatoes.
Be willing to order your tomatoes mid-week when the farmer is not having to choose between selling to you or selling at a higher price at the market. Be willing to take a variety of tomatoes: plum tomatoes, juice tomatoes, red, purple, yellow tomatoes. It makes your recipe better flavored anyway.
Offer to go to the farm to pick up your produce. Enjoy this experience. When we got to Dancing Bear Farm to pick up our tomatoes we also bought gorgeous organic garlic and onions. We found out this farm also produces open pollinated organic seed for seed catalogs. The organic seed Dancing Bear Farm planted last spring was their own. That made our little organic food geek hearts sing! Wow, that was impressive to us. We would never have known that if we had not gone out to the farm. So, let the farmer know how much you appreciate getting to buy the incredibly delicious and healthful food that he/she works to produce. Organic farmers are not in it just for the money. They are trying to make enough to continue to do the work they love.
Now, of course, our boxes contain some “seconds” – tomatoes that are misshapen and/or very ripe. Not “going to be ripe in a few days”, like get them in the jars in the next 24 to 48 hours ripe. Perfect. You simply cannot buy that taste in a grocery store!
Here Is What Ya Do with 300 pounds of fresh tomatoes!
First and foremost, you bookmark HereIsWhatYaDo.com because we are putting the finishing touches on a huge article showing how we proccess bulk tomatoes and use them in the goodies in the next paragraph… and it’s totally fun!
We use the tomatoes primarily to make tomato juice and tomato paste. From those two products we make spaghetti sauces, green chili, truck stop chili, vegetable beef soup, cream of tomato soup, and of course out of this world Bloody Marys (and Virgin Marys), all year long, just to name a few items. We have a friend that spreads our tomato paste on a baguette to serve with a glass of wine. When we have time an
d extra tomatoes we also make stewed tomatoes and salsa more delicious than anything you can buy.
This year we bought beautiful open pollinated, field ripened organic tomatoes (not organic green house tomatoes, there is a difference,) organic garlic, organic lemons and salt spending right at $450.00 That made 163 quarts of organic tomato juice and 28 eight oz. jars of organic tomato paste. On line organic tomato juice in glass jars sell for $8.00 a quart. Organic tomato paste sells for $5.00 for a 7 ounce glass jar. Not only are we putting more nutritious, delicious food on the table for our families, we saved over $1000.00 by making our own. And we had fun. Now that’s satisfying!
It’s worth finding out what grows in your area. You want to take advantage of all the fresh local organic foods you can buy directly from small family farmers. It’s for the common good. Healthier and less expensive for you, better for your neighbors down the road, your local family farmers.