The Real Reason You Should Shop Local

Home Self Sufficiency Emergency Prep The Real Reason You Should Shop Local

Want to know the importance of shop local? If you’re still not convinced why you should ditch the chain stores and shop local instead, consider these key points.

The Real Reason You Should Shop Local

By Kathy Bernier

Buying Local has become a buzzword. We hear a lot of words and phrases like locavore, local foods, locally sourced, and local foods movement everywhere, from print to broadcast to social media.

Buy what is the big deal about buying local? Is it just a cool trend, or important to only a select subsection of shoppers?

I say there are real and compelling reasons to buy local. And not just for an elite few. Whether you are a prepper, a homesteader, a conservationist, or a plain ol’ good neighbor, buying local is almost always the better choice. No matter how you identify yourself and what your priorities are, read on to see why buying local is important for everyone.

Whether you are a prepper, a homesteader, a conservationist, or a plain ol’ good neighbor, buying local is almost always the better choice.

There are a lot of reasons why I go out of my way to buy local, and a few reasons I make exceptions. I should confess up front that I am not one of those purists who never sets foot in a big box store and are willing to do whatever it takes—spend more money, travel a great distance, or go without—in order to avoid doing so. I respect people who make that choice, and admire their strict adherence to their ideals. Most of the big box purists I know are folks who end up partaking in other activities which I reject for the same reasons they reject big box shopping. We all do our best in out own ways, and everyone draws his or her own line in the sand.

Environmental Concerns

Produce being packed for shipping. source

One of the best reasons for local sourcing is for environmental concerns. Every item shipped in from another continent traveled many steps before it landed in your shopping cart, and almost all of them required the use of a petroleum product. First, the raw materials were grown or extracted from the earth, and were assembled and processed in some kind of facility which used needed heat, lights, and production power. The thing was then put into at least one layer of packaging—which itself was produced using raw materials and shipped to the factory where it will be used—and then shipped to a warehouse which was also heated and lighted. From there, your item was sent to at least one level of distribution before reaching your retailer.

Buying local makes sense for our community, for our planet, and for whatever our future may hold.

The locally-produced bar of soap or loaf of bread or bunch of kale isn’t completely perfect, but it went through a lot of fewer steps and probably a lot less fossil fuel to get to you.

It is important to remember that buying local goes two ways. I once knew a landscaper who often expressed frustration when potential clients chose big out-of-state companies over his small business. The larger outfits could streamline costs in a way that would allow them to underbid the little guy. But when that that same landscaper needed some brochures made up, he passed over the local printers and went straight to a big national chain because they were cheaper.

Customer Service

Customer service is always important in any transaction. image source

When I do choose the non-local option, my reason is usually customer service. I am willing to prioritize the needs of local businesses, but I expect reciprocity. If I have to stand waiting while a local merchant fusses over her grandkids every time I go into her vacuum shop, I’ll order my replacement bags online instead. Or if my local yarn-seller can’t stop talking about her personal life long enough to ring up my two balls of yarn in under twenty minutes, I’ll head to the big chain craft center next time.

I would also like to mention the delineation between local producers and local merchants. The line between them can get very fuzzy. A neighborhood storekeeper might own and operate a shop full of Chinese-made trinkets. Conversely, kitchen-table manufacturer of handmade jewelry might ship their wares all over the world.

The blurry line between local and not local can present consumers with tricky decisions. For example, when I buy wood shavings to use for livestock bedding on my farm, I must choose between two good options. I can buy them from my very local hardware store owned and operated by a brother and sister who inherited the place from their parents which makes me happy. Their shavings are wrapped in paper, which also pleases me. But the product itself is imported from Canada.

Conversely, I could buy my shavings from a farm store twenty miles away which is part of a state-wide chain. Not as great as my local store, and I have to spend time and gas getting there. And the bales are wrapped in plastic, which is a real drawback. But the shavings themselves are produced nearby, in a mill which employs my neighbors, and made from trees harvested by people in my area.

My solution is to buy from the farm store when I’m shopping there for other supplies anyway, and buy the rest of my shavings at the hardware store. Sometimes it’s necessary to get creative or accept a compromise in order to do the best possible thing for both human jobs and environmental preservation.

I love the way buying local fits in so nicely with homesteading. The component which ties the two ideals together is that of self-sufficiency. Those who practice homesteading do for themselves as much as possible. When they do need to call on others for goods and services, it is only natural that they would keep the transaction as close to home as they can.

The act of trading with people within out community is steeped in tradition. Our ancestors looked to neighbors for everything they could not create themselves, from dairy products to textiles to midwifery to building materials to livestock supplies. Before anyone considered selling away for goods, they first attempted to find what they needed locally.

I don’t think the idea of supporting your neighbors can be overstated.

One important reason it is important to buy local is because it is the right thing to do. We’ve all seen those memes on social media, telling us how buying from a local business helps a family put food on the table and buy a baseball uniform for Junior and pay the mortgage. It pops up on newsfeeds often enough that some might see it as excessive, but I don’t think the idea of supporting your neighbors can be overstated.

Another of my major reasons for buying local is one not often discussed. As a prepsteader—equal parts preparing for hard times in the future and homesteading for the present—the prepper side of me is always considering the “what if” event. Known as when the Stuff Hits The Fan, or SHTF, preppers acknowledge that things could go very south very quickly.

Depending on what kind of stuff hits what fan, it is conceivable that we might not be able to get food and necessities from regular sources. Consider beyond the ripe tomatoes and jars of dill pickles we get from the farmers’ market and roadside stands; and think about real hard core necessities.

I make most of my food from scratch, including all my own bread. But in the event of a widespread emergency, where would my ingredients come from? I have my own eggs and dairy—but where would I get the grain to feed the livestock?

Every region would act as quickly as possible to fill in the gaps left when food is no longer available from hundreds of miles away. Farms would begin to raise different crops, grist mills would start up, and entrepreneurs would create ways to squeeze oil from sunflowers and grow food in winter.

But in the interim—what then? We can’t just snap our fingers and fill the void left in our food supply as quickly as when the stuff hitting the fan created it. Developing new products and industry takes time.

Also Read: Understanding the Value of Food

Buy Local

image source

One potential answer is to buy local now. If we are suddenly unable to buy what we need from halfway around the world, having local or regional capability already in place could mean the difference between surviving the aftermath and “hitting the fan” with the rest of the stuff.

By buying flour milled in startup Maine mills using Maine-grown wheat, I am supporting these new operations when they need it most. If sudden disaster occurs, they are already up and running—not only mills, wheat fields, and granaries, but also people with experience and know-how to make it happen.

Other facilities in my region are pressing sunflowers into oil, carding raw wool, sawing lumber, breeding draft horses and selling horse-drawn farm equipment, making hand-powered farm tools, processing meats, and building wooden boats—in addition to the ubiquitous vegetables, dairy, and eggs.

Even though current operations would be nowhere near expansive enough to suddenly supply everyone, they would provide a great place to begin. I cannot imagine that expanding existing facilities would not be easier than starting from scratch.

Buying local is for everyone. There are so many compelling reasons to buy from your neighbors, and if you don’t do so already, I hope you start today. Buying local makes sense for our community, for our planet, and for whatever our future may hold.

Want to see a short documentary on buying local? Then watch this video from Unnatural Disaster:

Are these reasons enough for you to start buying local? Let us know below in the comments!

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