The amazing employees at The Lancaster Food Company made three beautiful batches of salsas the other day:
· Red Tomato with Cilantro—with just the right amount of spiciness
· Red Tomato with Sweet Corn—mild so you can really taste the freshness
· Golden-Orange Tomato—a beautiful color and a perfect mix of spicy and zesty
We purchased all the certified organic tomatoes and vegetables from several Lancaster County organic farmers.
The tomatoes—the star of the show—were ripe, juicy, and intensely flavorful, while the onions were sweet and mild. The green peppers were the crispiest we’ve even seen, the fresh garlic had a lovely tinge of light purple at the top of each fat clove, and everyone in production agreed that the cilantro and sweet corn smelled like the height of summer.
Everything came from farmers (part of the Lancaster Farm Fresh farmers co-op).who use organic methods that get certified by USDA-monitored inspectors on a regular basis (as an organic food producer, The Lancaster Food Company adheres to these strict and regularly verified methods as well). These are the family farmers who truly protect the proud and longstanding agricultural heritage of this area, a heritage threatened by ever-increasing acreage being turned over to GMO corn and soy.
The produce we bought to make these salsas certainly isn’t the cheapest we could get. Far from it.
It’s perhaps not ironic enough that we could get already peeled and processed certified organic tomatoes from California or Florida, or organic processed tomatoes from other countries such as Chile and Mexico, for far less money than these local fresh tomatoes, which we roasted, peeled, and chopped ourselves.
Processing the tomatoes, by the way, accounts for more than 50% of the time it takes us to make and jar our salsas, so buying already processed tomatoes would not only be a lot cheaper to get the tomatoes themselves, it would also cut our labor cost in half.
Since making these salsas, we’ve been wrestling with how much to charge for them. To competitively price our salsas with mainstream brands—even mainstream organic brands—we would have no choice but to get processed tomatoes from the big producers.
We looked into it. What we found was about as unappetizing as anything we’ve seen in the world of agriculture and labor:
Organic farm workers often treated no better than their counterparts.
We learned what is true of many cheap foods: they often come at an appallingly high cost. We decided to price our salsa fairly at $5.99 for a 12-ounce jar packed full of perfect tomatoes and vegetables—grown, picked, peeled, processed, and loved by people who deeply care about what you eat and who are in return treated with respect.
We hope you agree that it’s a very reasonable price for an amazing jar of Lancaster County summertime.