A better grapefruit

Jeff vonKaenel

Robert Hoover sells grapefruit. I eat grapefruit. So, there I was, standing in front of the Hooverville Orchards booth at the Sunday Sacramento farmers market under the freeway. Only one day before, I'd bought four grapefruits at a local supermarket. And here I was today, considering a purchase of more local El Dorado County grapefruit.

Just then, Robert announced in a loud, booming voice that the price of his grapefruit had dropped from $1 a pound to only 50 cents. Fifty cents a pound for local, just-picked grapefruit! I made an instant decision to go on a mini grapefruit diet. I bought half a dozen of Robert’s golden wonders.

Although Robert had been selling plenty of grapefruit at $1 a pound, his trees had produced more than plenty. Not wanting to take his grapefruit back to the farm, Robert dropped the price for the last hour of the market. Now, one does not need to be an economist to know that it is a lot harder to pay the bills when you’re getting 50 cents per pound than when you are getting a dollar.

But I was happy to get such a great deal. I was even happier after eating Robert’s grapefruit. They were great. A little bitter, but also sweet. I did a taste comparison with the nonlocal grapefruit from a Sacramento supermarket. The supermarket grapefruit seemed road weary. The taste was OK, but the insides were falling apart. They could not compare to Robert’s.

Why are most major supermarkets importing food items when we have a better product here? I’m sure they’ve got a good reason. But I believe that any supermarket that’s capable of figuring out how to offer Chinese food in their store can also figure out how to have great local produce. If we, the 2 million people living in the Sacramento region, decided to buy more local products, then the supermarkets would be willing to move heaven and earth to make sure that we had it. We need to send them that message.

Robert actually has some produce that is sold at big supermarkets, and he’s delighted about that. The Nugget Market chain and Raley’s are also starting to carry more local products. But the amount being sold now is so small, while the potential is so large. If the 2 million people living in the Sacramento region each spent $5 more a week on local food instead of trucked-in food from God knows where, that would be $10 million more per week or $520 million a year. Most of those millions of dollars would go to workers and to local businesses that would spend it in our community. It would be a giant boost to our economy.

And we would get a better grapefruit.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.