Saturday, January 14, 2012
As anyone living closest to a small city (i.e. less than 10,000) knows, buying local in the dead of winter is hard. Very hard. We do have a great farmer's market starting in late spring through October and all sellers must have grown their produce in our county. I try to shop there or another nearby county to the north of us (Amish markets) for most of my summer produce needs. My biggest exception: citrus.
For reasons unknown to me, I have been craving citrus all winter. I can't get enough. While I love grapefruit, Satsumas, and oranges, I can't say I have ever craved them with such an intensity. I am guessing my body lacks or needs something and citrus is meeting that need.
For the most part, I buy most of my citrus from Trader Joe's or a fruit market in Louisville. I like their selections of less common varieties and the prices (especially at the former) for organic is great. However, I also shop at the Big Stores. You know which ones I am referring to (basically, my only choices in the small city).
So, I am getting around to my story here. Today I saw that one of the Bigs had blood oranges. Wow, and at a great price! I love blood oranges. I decided to try following Tigress in a Jam's Can Jam Challenge (informally, as this one was from 2010) and make blood orange marmalade. Of course, the Big did not have the blood oranges they advertised, so I bought a bag of Cara Cara oranges and Ugli fruit instead. While checking out, the cashier and I were talking about the citrus and she tells me she used to work in produce at a supermarket that was once in town (long ago bought up by one of the Bigs). She told me when she came to work for Big she tried produce, but was soon placed on cashiering. She told me she asked them if she could do both (she's experienced, mind you), but they told her no. Instead, the Big store cut her after holidays hours down to 14. Yes, fourteen hours and she is the main wage earner in her family. She told me she had almost paid off her trailer, but then they cut her hours and now she is afraid she is going to lose it. She is falling further and further behind.
Now I understand the need for businesses to cut back when business slows, but this place is the only Big store in town (they definitely have the monopoly) and it is almost always busy (unless you are there in the middle of the night or early in the morning). Fourteen hours at probably barely minimum wage? She said, 'I work really hard..." in a voice like she was pleading with me to understand her plight or just make me believe she really wants the work. I can't imagine how she must feel to check out all the shit we buy. But then, the shit is giving her 14 hours (said with a sarcastic tone).
Really sad. I wish my patronage to the business counted for something towards it's workers. They say these Bigs make jobs. Really? Quite frankly, I think the majority of us are just screwed by the Bigs: higher prices, less choices, less hours for the workers, higher profits for that abstract face behind the curtain.