MaryJane’s grandgirls (left to right: Adria, Mia, and Stella) managing Farmer’s Market booth in 2015.

Seventy-five years ago, families spent 24 percent of their disposable income on food. That has slowly declined, dropping to 11.2 percent in 2023. So as income rises, the proportion of income spent on food declines. (Meanwhile, the amount we spend on medical bills has dramatically increased.) Of the roughly 10 percent now spent, most of it buys empty calories, chemicals, and preservatives.

Potato famine, nutritional famine—same thing. So as we motor on out to that fast-food restaurant for cheap food, that super center for a bargain, stopping along the way to spend money on plastic unnecessary objects, we, of course, devalue along the way the worth of our health, the worth of farmers, the worth of good food, the worth of land, the worth of clear water, the worth of the farm family …

Here’s what I propose. Spend 10 percent, no, spend 15 percent more on food. Go on a spending spree (in all the right places). Eat organic, eat local, eat worth, eat health. If you have a farmers’ market, go. Fill several baskets. Give every farmer you buy something from a generous tip. Remember, you have to at least double what you spend now, so you can keep us farmers around, doing what we do. (Sorry, this doesn’t include restaurants.)

How will you come up with this extra money? You’ll spend less on soda pop and beer, less on doughnuts, less on doctors, less on chips and dips, less on canned goods, less on packaged breakfast cereals, less on things like cell phones and cable TV, more on apricots, more on pastured cows, more on artisan breads, more on exquisite cheeses, more on a backyard garden (less on lawn).

You’re not just feeding your body. Try it. It has this unexpected effect: as you take a spoonful of our Shepherd’s Meat Pie followed by some fresh cherries you picked up at your local farmers’ market, keep those cherry pits in your mouth a little longer, and think about it. You’ll come to realize that paying more for your food (valuing it more) doubles its taste, essentially, doubling the value of your money.