Local food comes to me down here. It’s not always easy to find because a lot of Salvadoran packaging isn’t clearly labeled, but a woman named Ruby who owns a nutrition center has connections with a variety of local and organic farmers. When she learned of this community of gringos who were interested in purchasing organic, local, healthy foods, she jumped at the chance to provide for us.
This is how it works: she emails us on Wednesday, letting us know via Excel spreadsheet the products she will have available. Fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, and even imported organic and healthy packaged foods are on her list of available items. I avoid those imported products because it doesn’t seem right to me to buy the organic turbinado sugar, even though I can’t get organic sugar around here. Which is a sad irony because we’re surrounded by sugar cane. So I just get the conventional sugar because at least it’s local. So I fill out my order and reply to her email. On Saturday morning, Ruby loads up her car with the goods that had been delivered to her business. Each farmer or cooperative will receive her order on Thursday evening and deliver to her on Friday. And we’ll get everything on Saturday.
In the interest of keeping people coming, she also sells products that are neither local nor organic, but she is very clear about which product comes from where. She does not try to pretend that everything she has is the best. She will say, “All I have are these carrots, which are from Guatemala, and I don’t know anything about the farm they came from.” But they’re the same carrots available in the grocery stores, as most of the products: usually from Guatemala, sometimes Honduras, and you don’t have any idea about the methods in which they were grown or harvested or transported. But with the local and organic products bought from Ruby have Ruby’s stamp of approval on them. She says she knows how each farmer grows or raises their products, and she would not sell us a product labeled organic that was in fact not.
My next goal is to try to get to these farms and see for myself their farming practices. I am not saying I think Ruby is lying! I just want to visit these organic farms, see the conditions the people work in, how large the farm is, and how accepting they are to visitors. But for now, I will just take Ruby’s word and enjoy the free range local eggs, the very tasty local organic chicken breasts, the organic baby carrots (these are actually baby carrots, as in small sweet carrots, not ones that have been made into a baby with a little carrot lathe!), local organic romaine lettuce, beets, zucchini and broccoli. And relish the fact that I have to travel no further than the pool in the courtyard to do my weekend shopping. Does this really save energy in the long run? Probably not, as many of us still have to go to the store to buy other products Ruby doesn’t sell, but she’s providing us with something we wouldn’t otherwise have access to, so we’ll take it!