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Why is Buying Local Such a Big Deal?

May 16, 2012

As we get enmeshed in this year’s Presidential election process we are going to hear a lot of noise about the economy and fingers will be pointed and blame will be thrown. But I want you to consider how this all can change if we, each one of us, makes a change in the way we make purchases. This is completely apolitical, but it is involved and active

I remember in the 1960s that my parents, having lived through World War II, were dismayed as more and more manufactured products started being imported from Japan. They were not carrying grudges or being bigoted but were angry that American  jobs were being lost in the name of bigger corporate profits.   Through my own lifetime and yours we have seen factories close down and the owners move their processing to less expensive locations overseas.

We are annoyed about not understanding the customer service rep’s foreign accent when we call an 800-number but we actually should be jealous at their ability to speak English so well.  (I wish I was fluent in another language, even if I had a bad accent.) We should not be angry with that person; we should be really annoyed that the company we patronize is not hiring people here in the United States. We should consider why we patronize them.

I remember as Wal-Mart started to spread across the country their big emphasis was on selling American made goods.  And you hardly ever see a product made in America sold there. Why? The profit margin on products made in developing countries is larger for that corporation.  You don’t hear that anymore.

This is not a new issue. It is interesting to consider that Thomas Jefferson once said, “I have come to a resolution myself … never again to purchase any article of foreign manufacture which can be had of American make.”  His actions were REVOLUTIONARY back in those days but perhaps it is time again to look at what each of us can do for our economy.

Roger Simmermaker is the author of “How Americans Can Buy American: The Power of Consumer Patriotism.”  He recently posted an article cautioning people that the foods that they purchase at farmers markets may not actually be local and may also not even be grown in the United States.

As more and more people have begun to wake up to the local foods movement and using farmers markets as a resource, it becomes increasingly important that the  managers of the markets verify that the people selling the produce and products ARE local farmers. Consumers should be able to know where the farms are located and the growing methods used.

If you are a supplier at a local market, make a sign indicating where your farm is. If you are shopping at a farmers market, ask the sellers where they come from and how they raised their food.

And if you see a watermelon in May, or strawberries in April, or corn in May… already know it is not local unless you are in California or Florida. Ask. And then, decide you can wait for when the produce is in season, and walk away.

Instant gratification needs to end. We have to have a longer view now.  You will be helping your local and the national economy.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Kristin permalink
    May 18, 2012 8:10 pm

    Enjoyed reading this article… especially the last three sentences!

  2. June 7, 2012 11:57 pm

    Local food doesn’t only earn you good local economic karma — It also means your getting more nutritional bang for your buck, flavors that will blow your mind, and promoting a sustainable food solution for the future! Can’t beat that!

  3. June 10, 2012 1:55 pm

    I agree with a lot of what you are saying here, but here’s another perspective – I live in a small town in the centre of Ireland that has one major employer (and it’s my employer) – a pet food company. It’s survived for 40 years providing pet food for export – the Irish market alone would not sustain it so we need to export, we need to sell to the markets in the UK and Europe(who have their own pet food manufacturers) – three hundred people and assorted businesses in the locality rely on this company – a fire six years ago cost two hundred jobs in an area of less than 5000 people. The way we get into the markets abroad is selling a good product at as low a cost as possible. If customers started to buy only the local pet foods then we’d close. I agree that corporations can be too greedy but people want to buy at lower cost if possible. If a family is watching their budget then sadly they will choose the lower cost item even if it’s not from Ireland(or the US). I do think people should purchase more of their own country’s produce yet I can’t help feeling a bit hypocritical because I need the people in other countries to buy our products or I’m out of a job.
    Thanks for the ‘like’ by the way!

    • June 11, 2012 1:55 am

      I hear you and understand that we are a global economy now. In many ways that is good and I enjoy the world being a smaller, friendlier place. The issue of supporting local producers is complex. Buying local food means you have items that are ripe and more highly nutritious for the most part. But that would also mean no bananas or coffee or (horrors) chocolate, so I am not talking 100%. If you have a choice to buy a local tomato, for example, instead of one that is shipped from the Southern Hemisphere during our winter, you will find the local tomato superior in taste AND you will be supporting a local farmer. You company’s pet food is competing in the global marketplace, and I hope it does fine. There are local pet food suppliers but they are pretty randomly located. Lower cost is only one factor in deciding purchasing….quality and health benefits or avoidance of risks are a consideration many people make and adjust spending.

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