Our stove recently went on the blink, and my first reaction was that we would have to get a new one. After all, we had just replaced the fifteen year old original two years before; and the salesperson at the time told us that the average appliance now only lasts five to 7 years. The cost of getting it repaired was about three quarters the replacement cost, and it seemed to make sense to have something brand new.
Except that we would also be creating a lot of waste, both by throwing away our old stove, and in all of the waste by-products it takes to make a new one. That didn’t sit right with me, and so we had our old stove repaired. Hopefully it still lasts us another five years! Not only did we avoid creating a lot of waste, we also benefited our community by helping out a local business and keeping the money in our own town. This got me thinking about some reasons we can all love local!
1. Local Equals Quality
When it comes to produce, you can’t get fresher than buying directly from a farm stand, CSA, or farmer’s market. Often the fruit and veggies you buy have been picked only hours earlier, and have been able to ripen completely before being harvested. The flavor and quality of the produce is unparalleled, and you know your produce has been grow with passion and love. Your cucumbers or berries may have even been sung to before they reached your hands!
2. Local Costs Less
Buying directly from a farm, bakery, or other producer means that you are often paying wholesale prices, and can even make bulk purchases for less. You can often pick up seconds, or day olds, or almost expired for even less, and a freezer can preserve the freshness of a product until you are able to use it. Last winter, we froze eight one liter (2 gallons) bottles of eggnog when our local dairy was giving away eggnog that was expiring the day we were going to purchase some. I try to check expiration dates regularly, and always check in the day-old section of our gluten-free bakery.
3. Local Means Unique Products
Where else can you find heirloom beans and lettuce, one-of-a-kind furniture and art, or homemade, all-natural bars of soap? Farmer’s markets and local vendors often carry these unique creations. True, they may cost a little more than the equivalent in a large box store. But what you get in return is a high quality product, that tastes, looks, or feels better than its massed-produced counterpart. It is most likely healthier for you and the environment. And, chances are when you pay a little more, you tend to care for it better, enjoy it more, and use it a little more sparingly.
4. Local Supports People
Small businesses are often described as the “backbone” of the country. They are the ones that put their necks out on the line to provide high-quality products and services. They are passionate about what they offer, and they are their expertise is unmatched. When we support these home grown businesses, we enable artisans, we provide jobs for our neighbors, and we keep our money in our own community. We also ensure that we can continue to have access to wonderful products and services.
5. Local Reduces Waste
Food and other goods are often wrapped in two or three layers of plastic or other waste material that may or may not be recyclable. Many factory produced goods need to include the brand, the nutritional value, a product description, directions, etc. Speaking directly to the producer means that the written instructions on these packages are unnecessary. And repairing, instead of replacing, means our landfills experience less waste, and the environment surrounding the factories where so many products are made or processed experience less of an impact.
6. Local Provides Information
Being connected to the people who grow and prepare our food is very important. Knowing who has produced your food allows you to ask important questions, like, how has it has been grown?, and what ingredients are used not only in the product, but in processing the product? For example, did you know that ‘baby’ carrots are peeled, and then run through a chlorine solution to keep them ‘fresh’ longer? However, because it is a process and not an ingredient, it doesn’t need to be listed. (I’ll rant on that another day!) Not only is it less likely to have undergone unnatural processes, we will at least have the chance to ask the source.
7. Local Creates Relationships
Remember how I talked about the family that sells pastured eggs, and the girl that works at the dairy, and the couple that runs the organic farm stand? I think of them as friends. Shop at the farmer’s market once a week and you’ll start looking for the lady that produces your new favorite soap, or the kids that have picked herbs to sell, or the guy who sells unique flower arrangements. Start up a conversation about the veggies you are growing, or a recipe you made with their product, and you are well on your way to making a friend! You’ll find yourself looking forward to the next market, and they might lay aside your usual so that there are sure to be enough when you show up.
When we are passionate about loving local businesses, we encourage others to love local too. Our communities thrive, and can support even more local vendors. Passionate vegetable gardeners, jewelry makers, chocolatiers, bakers, and business owners can make a living pursuing what they love, and they can then pass their passion and their products on to us.