I love California. I grew up here and sometimes, when the crowds get to me, I fantasize about leaving, but I realize I probably never will. Part of the reason is the food (okay, a large part) and part is the “California Dream”. California pushes the envelope for the whole country, and without California I believe our country’s environmental legislation would far behind what it is. But because we are the most populous state in the union, when we pass a requirement, manufacturers try to meet it. To ignore our market is to ignore one of the largest consumer markets in the world. When it comes to food, California environmental legislation is a major force.
I will give you a few examples:
In 1986 California voters passed proposition 65, The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act; one of the most progressive pieces of environmental legislation in the world. The bottom line on this legislation is that the state must maintain a list of all chemicals known to cause cancer or reproductive harm. If you sell a product that contains chemicals on the list, you must label it as such. Prior to this legislation, European balsamic vinegar contained significant amounts of lead, but we were unaware of this. After implementation of this legislation (in stores that are compliant), the balsamic vinegar section has a warning label posted near it. California now has companies who produce their own California balsamic vinegar, and none of them that I am aware of are required to post the warning because their lead content is far below the European vinegars. I also know that when UC Davis Olive Center tested Extra Virgin Olive Oils from a variety of locations, only the oils from California were consistently pure and met the specifications for extra virgin olive oils. Why were there quality and safety issues with high-end imported European products? I will leave that to your imagination. All I can say is for myself, this kind of information screams “Buy California Grown”
As a farmer I am well aware that when I go to Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, where I buy organic products for my farm, there are sprays that are approved as organic by USDA, and are sold for use on crops in other states, but have not met the California EPA requirements. I cannot buy these products for use on my farm.
Because I am a farmer, I am required to give the state records every single time I use any sprays (even most of the organic sprays) on my farm (I am lucky I don’t need to spray my mandarins and citrus, because I hate filling out piles of paperwork). I am also required to pay for routine water monitoring for toxic run off in streams around my farm. If my neighbor uses a pesticide or fertilizer on their lawn, and it runs off into the stream, my records are checked first, and if I have sprayed that product, I am the first to be held responsible. Farmers in California pay for ALL of us in California who want cleaner water.
So the next time the “California Grown” avocado, or peach, or whatever, costs 10 cents more than the Chilean avocado, think about what you are paying for. The California grower (even the non-organic one) is using only the most tested pesticides in the world, and is required to use such small amounts they never end up in the water supply or in the food. He is farming on some of the most expensive agricultural land in the world, so his cost per acre is included in the cost of the food. He is keeping that open space around your state that otherwise will be converted to housing tracts. Most farmers in California are barely holding on, and once they sell that land to become housing tracts it is lost forever to agriculture. California currently grows over half of the fruits and vegetables in the US. Will we be able to feed a hungry world in another 50 or 100 years with more and more California farmland being taken out of production? And in the future, if we “outsource” all our farming, what happens when the energy costs to bring it to our tables become unaffordable?
I grow my own, as you know, but when I don’t, I buy local, and if not local, I look for “California Grown”.
I really love your site here. I understand what you are saying about California grown but I live 3000 miles away on the East Coast– in upstate NY. We also have organic farms and lots of local agriculture in my part of the state so I just stick to the local. Our farmers market is unbelievably vibrant and eminently affordable if you don’t participate in the CSA. The only drawback is our long cold winters which makes food choices a bit narrower if eating only what is in season.
Thank you for your comments and for visiting my site. My initial reason for writing this site was to encourage people in California to eat locally grown foods and because of our Mediterranean climate they would enjoy the health benefits of a Mediterranean diet. It breaks my heart to see so many Californians buying all kinds of imported foods when if they ate what we grow here they would be eating the healthiest diet and supporting local agriculture. So when I say buy California Grown, this is the audience I am addressing.
A recent study was done that showed that 90 percent of Americans could eat a complete diet similar to what they are eating now with all ingredients sourced from within 100 miles if there was a change in our agriculture and food system to support that. There are so many reasons why that would be so much better than our current food system both from a nutritional and environmental perspective. You are doing your part by sourcing what you can locally. Don’t forget freezing, canning and drying to extend the season in your area. Even in California I preserve a lot of foods so that I can have a variety of ingredients year round. Dried and canned tomatoes get me through the winter without buying imports!