By Isabelle Bouchard
I just returned from a two-week road trip across the U.S., as we needed to bring our RV back to Canada. We went through Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York to re-enter Canada via Ontario.
We are very lucky to be healthy and able to do such a trip and are very grateful that we have a wonderful team at home to support the farm while we are away. (I also had a client that needed me in Orlando for work, so we combined business with pleasure.)
Like everyone here, Americans are dealing with and talking about rising prices. Here are some observations:
First, let’s take a look at gas prices. In the U.S., gas is measured in gallons not in litres; yet when you do the conversion, the highest price we saw being $4.79 per gallon or $1.26 per litre. It was as “low” as $3.85 per gallon in Florida. So, overall, it is much cheaper then here in Canada.
Yet all the Americans we spoke to still thought it was way too high. It surprised us that most of the people we engaged with blamed President Biden for the price of gas. That same blame game may not be as present here although no doubt many blame governments for rising costs. And of course, to save a few bucks, we made sure to fill-up before crossing the border! (Our RV is gas not diesel).
Second, we also tracked food prices while grocery shopping. When we first brought the RV south in November we were shocked that prices were almost the same as in Canada as we always thought food prices were cheaper in the U.S.
We went to Walmart, Publix, and Aldi and were surprised that some foods were more expensive than here at home
- Oranges in a Florida supermarket were the same price that I pay when only buying one at home in Lac St-Jean!
- Just like here, I did not buy avocados (too expensive!)
- Because space is limited in the RV I had to buy fresh products, and everything fresh was as expensive as here
- The least expensive meet was chicken, but beef and pork were as high as here
- To my surprise snack and junk food (e.g. potato chips) were even higher in the US. I was kind of happy about that as I always experienced that junk food was cheaper than healthy food in the U.S.
Third, restaurant prices were closely tracked. Again, in fast food chains the prices were the same and higher – nearly $30 for lunch for two adults. But in family restaurants the prices were lower if we compare the quality, the quantity of choices and portion size.
Maybe, it’s because of the high number of customers that prices are able to be kept affordable. By comparison, in Québec, the prices in restaurants are up since they reopened and it’s very justified since everything costs more for the owners (meat, vegetables, employee wages, etc.).
Fourth, the need for workers is urgent. Just like here, there are “we are hiring” signs everywhere along the highway and in cities. Every store, restaurant, bar, and plant are looking for employees. At the same time, construction is rampant with countless complete neighborhoods being built.
Sadly, in many smaller cities, towns and villages, a lot of businesses are closed and economic activity was limited.
Just like here, farmers are prepping their land for the season ahead. In Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee, we saw farmers irrigating the soil that was too dry. In Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, they were just starting to work the land. Of course, they’re at least four weeks ahead of us here in Lac St-Jean where there is still almost two feet of snow in the field – melting much slower than last year.
Overall, we felt that U.S. consumers were in the same boat as us in Canada but that our economy seemed to be better in small communities. It is great to think that they are over 300 million people there and less than 40 million here but our prices are almost the same. I don’t know why it is like that, but I will take it.
We made it home safe and sound with our head full of great memories and our hearts filled with gratitude to be Canadian. With spring in the air, it is time to get ready for planting season!