Why Buy Locally?

We are all aware of the wide variation between plans that look good on paper vs. their real usefulness once they manifest in the world.   Communism, the 2010 Census and the master plans for my home-made solar cooker are all good examples.

There are those in my circle who scratch their heads, sigh or do eye-rolling when I share my thoughts on local community exchange currency, shopping locally, eating in season and organically, etc., etc.   But I will share with you a manifestation of the results of Not Buying Locally and what happens when we continue to do business as if gas is cheap, oil never-ending and getting the lowest price, always, makes you a savvy and responsible citizen.

My brother owns a sod farm.   He also harvests hay.   He’s splitting his ‘business bets’ between luxury, ecological  repair and food items.   I pointed out with very little change to his operations, he could maybe get some business from the Wheat Grass Juicing Health Food Craze.   (Insert eye rolling here.)

My brother loves what he does.   And he’s very good at it.   When he first took over operations, he already knew what his plan was to not only lower his production costs but also run his business in a more water conservation-friendly way.   He is realizing his plans.

If the economy had persevered, he would be in ‘tall cotton’ right about now.   Instead, he’s happy that all his work is going to make it possible for his farm to ride out this downturn, instead of going bankrupt.

Now, the economy immediately around him is doing okay.   There is a need for his product and he could easily sell it.    But the economy located approximately 2 1/2 hours away from him is not.   The sod farms there are trucking their salesmen and product over large distances and cutting their rates drastically, all in an effort to have some sales and keep from going under.

And as people love a good deal, my brother’s neighbors buy the lower-cost, non-local product – hey, they’re watching their pennies carefully too.

This last visit, he reported there were fencing companies traveling  almost 300 miles in order to under-bid the local companies.   No, they can’t afford to really do that , long term – but slowly spending more than you are taking in delays the starvation you have when you aren’t working at all and it will work for another reason – operating costs are tax-deductible.   Operating costs include vehicles and gas consumption.

For those of you familiar with Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver, you will realize these scenarios echo the example she so eloquently illustrated via buying local organic lettuce or corporate farm, non-local lettuce.    Yes, the big farm can grow it, harvest it, ship it and sell it to you for .97/head.   The local farmer wants $1.97.  “I can’t afford to eat locally/organically” you wail –

But that .97 lettuce is not REALLY that low price.  You have paid the same or more than you would for the local lettuce, but You Don’t Know that you have, because the savings comes out of tax subsidies – meaning, you are subsidizing that big farm with your tax dollars – but since you lose those tax dollars whether you buy local or not, it’s not really apparent to you just how much you are paying for the .97 lettuce.

Buying locally is also environmentally and economically advantageous.   Since I don’t believe I can be more succinct or eloquent, I’ll share a quote from Steven L. Hopp regarding this:

“A quick way to improve food-related fuel economy would be to buy a quart of motor oil and drink it.  More palatable options are available.  If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week (any meal) composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week. That’s not gallons, but barrels.” (Read full  “Oily Food” commentary here)

The other obvious but often disregarded truth regarding supporting local businesses – If they aren’t supported enough to survive – they are gone.   I wonder how low these traveling sod and fence salesmen will lower their prices when the market is good and they know their customers no longer have an option of buying locally?   Do you think they will reward their far-flung customers with low prices as a thank you for buying from them when times were hard?   Me thinks they will take advantage of their position and get all the money they can.

Because our current system is built on thriving through careful mining of profits through supply and demand mathematics.   Undercutting and driving out of business the smaller local operations during hard times is a great way to have an open field for charging whatever price you want when demand increases.

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While we’re on the subject of cutting off the short-term nose to spite our long-term face, let’s discuss layoffs.

About a year ago I was visiting with a fourth generation family member of a local well-works business.    He related how his great-grandad had handled the employee side of the business during the Depression.   All hands were assembled and he told them bluntly, “We have a choice.   We can all go to fewer hours, work with each other regarding scheduling so we cover what work we do have here and enable all of us to seek work in other ways too, or I can lay off all but two of you and the two left will have steady, full-time work.”

They chose for all to take less and work with each other to help meet everyone’s needs.

And when the Depression had faded away and work was once again plentiful, this man had a trained, experienced crew that was happy to return to full-time work.

When I read about bonus and dividend checks handed out to CEO’s and investors right on the heels of layoff announcements, I remember this story.    And I’m sure you know which course of action finds favor in my eyes.

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I probably haven’t shared with you anything you don’t already know.   And you may be rolling your eyes and thanking me for wasting your time telling you this.

But as we continue to face stimulus packages spent to expand regulatory agencies, (not on getting the average working American back to work, producing needed items and services) and we all realize we can’t just consume forever in expansionist mode, it pays to remember that salvation is often in the daily details.

It means spending the extra $1 on your weekly head of lettuce to keep your local farmer in business and waiting awhile for that new Xbox game or designer shoes.

If you are a business owner,  it means offering a reasonable schedule to your now part-time employees, so they have a chance in hell of getting another part-time job to supplement what they lost by staying loyal to you, instead of saying, “Take it or leave it, there are thousands that would just jump at the chance to work for minimum wage at whatever schedule or tasks I give ’em”.

(I have an acquaintance who now works 6 days a week, 2 or 3 hours at a time after commuting 15 miles, just to keep the job she does have.  Her schedule is posted weekly and can change at any time.   Her employers want full-time loyalty for a part-time position.    She sheepishly confesses, “Yeah, I’m looking for another position, but any work is better than unemployment or welfare.”   Her attitude is a noble one, and a prime example of how the idiotic and selfish take advantage of the honorable.)

It also means being very proactive in supporting the businesses that you really want to see still in business a day, month or year from now.    Putting food, shelter, healthcare should be the top of your list.   And if you have some extra to spend on the luxurious and beautiful, maybe something from a local artist or entertainer?    They may not be deemed as necessary to your survival, but if they choose to buy local too, then you are getting your quality of life via an expenditure that will also be spent in keeping your local food producer in business.

I’m not trying to be simplistic or naive.   Just buying locally and cutting back on non-necessities produced from outside your community is not all that’s needed.   But it is something that is completely within your control; action that does not have to wait for the next election, a new law to be passed, or dependent upon your government officials approving or supporting.   It’s ‘hunkering down’ not only with your family and friends, but your immediate neighbors too.

And, since I’m a control freak (according to some) I like plans of action that depend on nothing more than me choosing.

Unmolested Shopping

Tired of being solicited to sign, donate or date during your local shopping expeditions?

When did it get so durn hard to go to the grocery store?   In the past month, I’ve been the proud recipient of negative verbiage, tossed at me while either in or exiting my local stores.    Yes, I know, apparently, I must be in a ‘negative vibration’ and attracting all this to myself……..yeah, right.

The first incident happened  right after the anniversary of my son’s death and right before what would have been his 20th birthday.  You’re right –  I wasn’t in a good mood.  There I was, 10 o’clock at night, because cookies seemed like a good idea, since I don’t drink much anymore and chain smoking didn’t seem to be cutting it.

“Hi!  How HAVE you been?”   I turn from the on-sale cart, and do not recognize the person addressing me – not one inkling of who they are or how they must know me.   But they had greeted me like a long lost cousin, sooooooo…………….

“Fine.  And you?”

“I cannot find the milk.  Do you know where it is?”  I point him in the right direction and start moving off toward the cookie aisle, still trying to figure out why I suddenly have amnesia.

Inane chit-chat follows me in the form of a male person I do not know………I finally say, “I’m sorry, I don’t know you…?”   Hoping they will clue me in as to where we worked together, or a mutual friend or some in-common uncle.

Instead, “Oh, weeelll!!   Heaven forbid you can’t talk to someone you don’t know.   You must not have many friends, if you never talk to someone you don’t know.  I bet you don’t have any friends at all.”   And he turns his cart down the aisle and away from me.

(Did I mention previously I was not in the best of moods that night?) Something snapped.   “How dare you talk to me like that, you (insert every single one of the words your mother told you never to say)?”

(All this occurred while 3 cashiers/baggers stood watching, not one of which showed any inclination to stop the predator or the insane woman loudly protesting the verbal attack.)

I realized I was envisioning ramming him and his cart into the stacked canned goods.   Shouldn’t hurt him too much, should it?

But I got a grip, bought some cookies and stomped out to my truck.  Then observed my brain wondering if I could wait, run him over when he came out of the store AND get away with it.   In the end, I drove home, went to my room and cried.   Hubby thought I got attacked.  Sobbing, I told him what happened.   He tries to lighten my mood and make me see how some poor ole’ lonely guy (that probably lives with his mother and never had a date – his way of cheering me up) was just trying to get lucky.   I don’t buy it.

That was the first.   Now that my “Radar” is on, I realize it happens all the time.   Week later, exiting another grocery store –

“Are you a registered voter?”

“No”

“Please sign our petition for healthcare, yada-yada- yada”

“No Thanks.”

“Fine.  You know it’s people like you who are ruining our country with your lack of caring.  I bet you voted for Obama….yada-yada-yada”

I kept walking.   But I wondered if an officer would respond and write the fool up for the misdemeanor C.R.S. code that states, “…any gesture or verbal communication meant to incite or inflame…..”  (I swear there used to be a statute like that on the books.  Either it’s not enforced much anymore, or they repealed it, cuz there are folks that do this stuff all the time…)

And then another petitioner, who thinks since I’m not a registered Republican, then my mother and father weren’t married when I was born.

Tonight, I had a witness.   Hubby and I exiting the store. (I’m smart – I don’t go by myself anymore).   Right on cue, as we exited,

“Are you a registered Colorado Voter?”

I say, “No.”

Hubby keeps walking.

“You need to sign here to not allow violent offenders to get out on just a signature.”

No kidding, the guy is now following us, as we continue walking away.

“I bet you’ll wish you had signed this when something bad happens.   Bet you voted for Obama…yada-yada-yada”  (By now, I’m guessing I live in a community full of Republicans, not that there’s anything wrong with that……)

I start complaining and pointing out to Hubby what’s going on.   And add, extra loud, “They act like a$$%#@^s just because you aren’t going to do what they want you to.”

Petitioner is about same height as Hubby.  Hubby is wishing I would shut up.  But we are about 20 yards from Petitioner now, so I’m figuring he comes on over, perhaps we can get him on stalking charges, since rude and verbally abusing charges are no longer enforced……….

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Now, I realize I’m not always centered and balanced, radiating pure love and kindness.   And I’m sure, that at times, lost in my own little dramas and sadness, I’ve been short or rude in my interactions with others.   But c’mon!   I considered boycotting stores that allow predators outside their doors, but then I’d have to quit shopping altogether.

There is also a disturbing trend in being asked for a donation every time you purchase something.   I say no, just on principal.  (Also because there ARE good causes I contribute to, that spend their donations wisely)

Last fall, when I had been laid up with pneumonia/pleurisy and unable to work for about a month, the pharmacy cashier asked if I wanted to give a dollar to such-n-such.  I replied, “I really can’t.  But do you want to take a dollar off my purchase, since I’ve been out of work for a month?”    She didn’t want to donate either.

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I recently spent 7 days at a Benedictine Retreat house.   The other guests were on Silent Retreat.  It was, in a word, Awesome!   Any words that were spoken during my limited interaction with others, were kind and courteous.   Around there, the old adage, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all” really holds.

My theory is that folks only keep doing less-than-acceptable behavior because its been working.   And so, I’m ready for the next one.   Instead of cursing (durned old bad temper!)   I will quietly explain I was thinking about saying yes, but because of their abusive, (pushy, aggressive) disgraceful verbiage, I think I will instead decline.

I’ll let you know if it works.

(I will say it’s been my experience that when I have the perfect plan of action ready, the Universe decides I don’t need those kind of opportunities anymore………)