Friday, September 30, 2011

Why Shop Local?

We've all heard about shopping local. We've been told it's important to buy from local vendors. But why is it so important to buy local products? Does it really make a difference?

Eating locally may mean spending a little more. It's no big secret that local, organic foods are more expensive than what you find at Walmart. It's also not as pretty. Commercial edamame (soy beans) are smooth, but edamame from your local farmers market are fuzzy. Local apples have spots and home-grown eggplant has nicks. But despite it's higher price and less-than-perfect produce, shopping local is a much better choice.

Let me introduce you to a friend of mine who is a strong believer in supporting local businesses and growth. This is my friend and co-worker, Mary.

Mary owns and works her farm, Menagerie Farm, where she raises chickens, geese, ducks, turkeys, goats and horses. Here's a photo of Mary on her tractor, which she affectionately calls Mary Jane.

Every other week I buy a dozen eggs from Mary. If you've never eaten a real, free-range, farm-fresh egg you are missing out. The big brown eggs are thick and the yolk is a rich golden orange, rather than the runny yellow I was used to.  But it's the flavor that really sets a farm fresh egg apart from it's competitors. I love the rich flavor that the eggs possess - even in the whites!  I haven't bought eggs at a grocery store in six months. Here's what Mary has to say about shopping local: "It keeps your money here...within the county and the state. It keeps your neighbors from going under." "Also, if you're talking food, you're talking fresher food...We eat local and we eat whats in season. We eat of of the garden and we eat our own eggs. It's not that expensive."

Last week Reeve and I went to the Bluegrass Farmers Market in Lexington. All of the products sold at the market must be grown by the vendor. There is no second-hand produce here. The tomato you see on the table was raised by the farmer standing behind the table, and quite often was picked that very morning.

Local farmer, Roger Postley, handed us sweet pimientos, sweet jalapenos and black plum tomatoes, which we promptly purchased - along with five or six more of each! Postley, owner of Tomatoes, Etc, claims that "anything worth doing is worth overdoing" and grows over 100 tomato plants and 50 pepper plants in his backyard. His tomatoes aren't your typical, grocery store tomatoes either. He grows heirloom tomatoes in nearly every color and flavor. He handed me a black plum tomato that I simply did NOT want to share! We exchanged pizza and fried jalapeno recipes and swapped stories of grandparents who made traditional Italian dishes. Postley doesn't grow these tomatoes for a living, he just grows them as a hobby and sells them at the farmers market every Saturday. If you live in the bluegrass you should stop by sometime and see him. He'd be glad to let you try almost anything on his table before you buy it - try that at a chain grocery store and see how far you get!

Reeve's grandfather, Paul, is a master gardener who grows garlic, onions, blueberries, carrots, and lettuce - to name a few. Every year we try to make a few trips out to western Kentucky to see him and bring home some garlic and onions. You simply won't get garlic as good as his at a grocery store. He loves his garden and he loves his plants. He spends much of his time hunched over in the garden carefully lifting leaves to check each clove or carrot.  (And he's 87 years old!) Local farmers like Paul care about each plant and grow their crops with pride that you won't see with mass production. Local farmers are also more likely to compost and less likely to use chemicals on their plants. (More on composting later.) Local crops aren't full of growth hormones to make them grow too quickly.

Reeve's aunt, Sharon, is also a master gardener and local shopper. She says "[Buying local] saves energy from not having to transport. It helps the local economy. It supports small farms which do not rely on government subsidies. The food is more likely to be fresh, possibly containing more live enzymes as they diminish daily. It's not grown in mass quantities which requires more use of pesticides. You know where it comes from and you're eating seasonal food which is healthier and hot house grown..." These are just a few great reasons to buy food grown locally.

Fellow blogger, Sarah, says of buying local, "It puts money back into the community and you know what you're getting by buying local." I find this to be so true. I feel like I'm getting the honest-to-goodness truth and a great product when buying locally. Local farmer (and personal friend of mine) Mandy says, "The cost, both monetarily and to the earth are great when products are shipped. I don't want to support slave labor."  Blogger and mom of two, Rachel, sums up the reasons perfectly: "Stimulates local economy, you know where it came from, and fresher is better." Couldn't have put it better myself. 

Buying local provides a fresher product, it stimulates your local community both socially and monetarily, it supports your neighbors livelihood, it ensures better customer service, and it allows you to meet fantastic people you wouldn't meet if your just purchased your products from a chain grocery store. 

So do your part to care for the earth and for your community and buy local!

1 comment:

  1. funny to read this today as we just got back from 3 different farms getting fresh fruit and local honey (Ray's been begging me to get some ever since I told him what you'd suggested as a natural allergy remedy...his allergies are awful).
    Another note/suggestion is to pay in cash. While credit/debit cards are more convenient, not every place accepts them (2 of the 3 we visited only took cash) and even if they do, it often hurts them to accept credit. They have to pay a service charge every time credit/debit cards are used...not a big deal if you're Walmart or Target, but it can really hurt small businesses.