Eating Utah-Grown Produce on a College Budget

Many people assume that local produce is more expensive than buying from a grocery chain, but there are actually ways to buy locally for the same, if not, lower prices. There are many great reasons to eat local food, including supporting your local economy as well as reducing your carbon footprint because food doesn’t have to be shipped as far.

 

The way I get most of my local produce is by volunteering. Some community gardens and other farming programs will let you take home some produce for free. Here in Salt Lake City, I volunteer with Green Urban Lunch Box’s Fruitshare program which gives volunteers up to ⅓ of the fruit they help pick. They have a few other farm-based programs as well. I’ve loved having such a hands-on experience with my food and it’s totally changed my view on fruits and vegetables. Another great program I’ve volunteered with is Wasatch Community Garden. They have several programs that give volunteers produce they help grow. The University of Utah also has gardens on campus where you can volunteer. Volunteering is made more convenient at the U because you can fit it around your classes, without losing your parking spot. If you really want to get involved you can apply to start your own community garden on one of the parcels listed here.

If volunteering doesn’t work with your schedule, there are also cost-effective ways to buy produce. The easiest way is to buy produce is in its local season. Make sure to check the labels at your local grocery store to know where your food is coming from. Local produce doesn’t have to be shipped as far so it’s generally cheaper than produce that has to be sent from far away.

If you’re willing to go a little out of your way, your cost-effective options expand. I would recommend checking out a local food co-op. Utah Co-op in Murray even has their prices listed online here, which is helpful to know what you’ll be spending ahead of time. Options at the store will be limited by season, but it’s worth it for the flavor!

 

Another way is to invest in Community Supported Agriculture or CSA. You purchase a share of a farm’s produce for the growing season and then pick it up or have it delivered throughout the season. These do require quite a bit of money upfront, but it's important to remember that this is for the whole season! A great way to offset this cost is by splitting it with roommates or friends. Many CSAs also offer payment plans to help distribute the cost more evenly. Try checking out CSA Utah to find a CSA that works for you.

If you don’t have the time to volunteer or the money to buy produce, then you can start your own countertop garden. I’ve used the Click and Grow system which is a great way to start out (although it is a bit of an investment). However, you don’t need anything fancy to start. All you need is a pot, some dirt, and some seeds. Herbs are a great way to start indoor gardening. Some produce including lettuce, carrots, and tomatoes even work inside. Do a little research and be persistent and you can grow your own produce.

Local produce is available for anyone if you know where to look and are willing to get your hands a little dirty!

 

Photo Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4