Building Community Through Buying Local

We are grateful that God has placed us in a community where we are not to be stagnant and isolated, but to be a light set upon a hill. Trying to rebuild an impoverished, dependant community is no easy task and might just well take several generations, however, just one of the many keys to rebuilding community is buying local.
In an article entitled, “Sustainable Living:  Change Spending Habits, Build Economy”, the author points out:

A modest change in consumer spending habits can generate quite a local economic impact, says the Lamar Study, which tracked $100 through an Austin, Texas, bookstore and a chain bookstore. That $100 resulted in $45 staying in the local economy through the local bookstore, but only $13 from the chain store remained local, mostly in the form of wages paid to local employees.

That’s because corporate chains have their headquarters elsewhere, and the money is quickly funneled out of our communities. The study also found that if each household in the surrounding county were to redirect $100 of planned spending from chain stores to local merchants, the local economic impact would reach more than $10 million. The reason is called the “multiplier effect.”

The article goes on to explain how powerful local spending can be on the local community. 
On the same subject, I watched a documentary that explained the effects of corporate spending vs. local spending on the local economy.  It mentioned that when you spend money at a large corporate business, the money you spend is out of your community by midnight, however, if you spend your money with local businesses, the money changes hands an average of 7 times before it leaves the community.
A picture is illustrated in this scenario:  Mrs. Mable at the Antique store buys lunch from Barney’s Bar-B-Q. Barney then buys some pet food for his animals at the Farm Store.  The Farm Store then buys hay from Mr.Wright.  Mr.Wright buys tools from Tom’s Hardware. Tom then buys produce from Mr. Smith down at the farmer’s market.  Mr. Smith buys a dining room table from Sam Carpenter, who runs a small furniture shop featuring goods from local woodcrafters.  Sam then buys more furniture for his store from two young woodworking entrepreneurs.
While that sounds ideal, many times life isn’t as simple as that.  At least, it is something to ponder.  Because of the culture in which we live, some things are just inescapable. However, many of us can start buying more local goods than we think possible.  The problem is that we are so indoctrinated and programmed into “spending corporate” and more focused on what a dollar will get us instead of what a dollar can do for us and our community.  It takes time and purposeful intention to readjust our thinking as well as our spending habits. 
Our family is still very much in the process of transitioning and wrestling with these ideas. We started down the path we always dreamed about and that path has led us to growing some of our own vegetables, raising our own meat and milking our own cow.  Yes, it is not easy and sometimes it seems that all the work that goes into the farm is an imbalanced work vs. goods ratio.  For example, try to grow a garden in 105 degree heat with no rain.  Or how about the time you had to traipse across the field at 6:30 in the morning to go find the cow and drag her to where she was supposed to be so you could milk her.  Times like these provoke you to reminisce about how buying a gallon of milk at the store was never this hard!
But then again, it is not always about taking the easiest, fastest or most financially profitable way, anyway.
Some simple tips to help you transition to local buying:
1.)  Identify a grass fed, organic farmer who can supply you with good clean meats.  If a whole cow is too much for you, you can organize a group of families and split the cost of a whole beef cow or buy smaller portions to start with.  If you are unable to raise your own meat, there are a growing number of family farms that sell organic grass-fed beef and pastured poultry as well as other meat options.  One word on cost.  We have in our minds that “cheap” is better. Cheap food is not always better and, in fact, because of the corporate model, the whole price of….say…. cheap chicken is not factored in to the cost you pay at the store.  The .69 cent chicken is a facade.  Once you factor in the quality of the product, what it does to your health, your community, the economy and the environment- that cheap chicken isn’t cheap any longer.
2.)  Identify and support your local farmer’s markets, family farms and family owned stores.  You may be surprised to find out that you have fruit orchards or berry patches or you-pick farms in your local area.  Farmer’s markets and CSA groups, community supported agriculture, are growing rapidly and are widely available. 
3.)  Make a commitment to change habits.  After reading the book, Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser and watching the documentary, Super Size Me, I promise your views of a quick, fast burger will change.  The way we view food has to change if we are to change our eating and shopping habits.  When we travel, we have found that it is much easier to pack our food.  This saves us a lot of money, eliminates fast food stops, provides us with healthier food and limits our exposure to food-born illnesses.  People use to live with out fast food.  It is only a strange notion in a Fast Food Nation.
4.)  Eating seasonally.  This helps the budget as well as gives you a variety of foods to enjoy throughout the year.  Now is the only time in history that it is possible to buy watermelon in December!  Eating seasonally will help you transition to eating more locally grown food because that is what will be available.  In May and June, we were eating a lot of strawberries, now we are eating a lot of watermelon, cantaloupe and peaches.  Learn to eat what is available.  Learn to use squash 10 different ways and find 10 other uses for tomatoes!  Eat what you have and do not be so dependant on certain foods to be available all year round.  Give variety to your cooking and meal preparation by enjoying the fruits in season and learning to store the remaining for future use.
5.)  Develop your own family commitments.  For our family, we consciously make efforts to change certain shopping habits.  The transition to thinking locally instead of globally does not happen overnight.  We are still, in fact, in that transition and constantly thinking of ways our family can lead in reviving a economically thriving, close-knit, local community.  
You can also search online for local farms in your area to get you started down the path to buying local.

1 Comment

  • Carmen says:

    Good thoughts. We have a garden right now so we are definitely using tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes. (I wish we lived closer…I’d be more than happy to share!) We have chickens so we get our eggs from them — we only have 9 and they aren’t great for meat so we buy our meat locally. We try to buy from our local hardware stores versus making a trip to the larger city near us to go to the mega home store. We buy most of our meat and veggies from a local grocer (it’s a small town chain) who buys locally for the community. (I have to admit that I buy a lot of things on sale — loss leaders — from the big chain when I’m there.) We’re still looking for more ways. When we move we’re hoping to have a bit of land and be able to do a more.
    We will pray for your family and community.