Years ago, I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was attending BYU--Hawaii, one of the few schools that my church owns and operates. The campus sits by the north shoreline on the island of Oahu, and if you can imagine, is in the middle of a tropical paradise. I can't really say that for sure because I've never been there, nor anywhere in Hawaii. The best I can do right now to experience Hawaii is to eat a pineapple from my local grocery and watch reruns of Hawaii Five-Oh. I would include those savory chocolate and caramel-covered macadamia nut clusters too, but the nearest Costco that sells those yummies is a 90-minute drive.
The majority of the conversation's details has long been forgotten, but I remember discovering how expensive rent and groceries were (specifically, the insane $5 price for a gallon of milk), so I asked her, "Why don't you live somewhere else to go to school?"
"Because it's so beautiful, " she said. "I love the ocean, the beach, the surfing, the sunshine. I love it over there."
Earlier this week, I had a little slice of deja vu delivered to my front door. As I was careening through the local roads, I felt a little New England pride. "Wow," I thought. "I can't believe I live here." I felt like skipping down the lofty mountain meadows like Melissa Gilbert did in Little House on the Prairie.
I was out to buy some milk. The Co-op was just right there, so I went right in. What the heck is a co-op? I'm a born and bred city girl, so I had the Internet to teach me:
- "A cooperative business is one that is owned by those who use its services. The Co-op embodies the idea that by working together and pooling our resources we can provide ourselves and our community with goods and services we desire."
- "Each member household buys ten $5 shares of Co-op stock. This one-time $50 investment entitles you to full membership in the Co-op....At year’s end, if a patronage refund is offered, your refund will be calculated from the total in this account."
Though the Co-op is a great idea, we are still trying to decide on which places to put our money. Grabbing milk on the go shouldn't be a big deal, right? I grabbed a pound of ground beef to make hamburgers for an easy dinner, so yeah, milk and meat. That's it.
I was warned that things were a little expensive around these parts, but my little virgin eyes and ears were plunged into a rude awakening. Ground hamburger meat was almost $4 a pound. I'm not talking about the lean fat content...it was the full fatty kind. And the milk? I had to settle for a half gallon. That's a half gallon, people. That would last in my household two days at most. (The only people I can think of that buy half gallons are college students and senior citizens.) The milk comes in these adorable glass jugs that make you feel all organic and farm-like. It's a nice fuzzy feeling until you realize how much you're charged for it.
Total cost of 2 items: 1 pound hamburger & 1 half gallon skim milk = $7.25. I get to take back my empty glass milk jug back to the store and get a dollar back. Whoop-de-doo-dah-day.
The cashier reminded me that the milk comes from a local farm 20 minutes away. "Thanks for supporting our local farms," he said. He was sweet, and he meant every word of it; I, on the other hand wished I felt better about my agricultural support. Before I force a non-dairy or vegan diet upon my family, I'm scrambling to find a decent price on milk. Milk about anywhere here might as well be liquid gold and I'm in urgent need to find help--fast. The most logical action that I can see is to find myself a dairy cow. Our house is surrounded by all the grass she'll need to eat, so lucky for us, our lawnmower shall go back to where it came from: Craigslist.
This is the price you pay for living in a beautiful part of the country. For every glass of milk, I'll think of the thick forests on mountain grandeur, the postcard-worthy storybook villages, the famous technicolor autumn leaves, the not-too-hot summers, and the white-steepled 18th century churches rising out of the trees. But until I can find myself a cow, I'll have to persuade my two-year-old to chew calcium tablets and to eat more kale.