This magical, marvelous food on our plate, this sustenance we absorb, has a story to tell. It has a journey. It leaves a footprint. It leaves a legacy.
A vegan, a butcher and a clergyman walk into a bar. It’s a locally owned bar that serves farm-to-table tapas and local craft brews. Next door there is a guy roasting shade-grown, fair-trade coffee beans and hosting local authors. He has a friend who bakes fresh sweets to go with the coffee. Both businesses have local art on the walls and do fundraisers for those in need. The local kids who come by, from all socioeconomic strata, are welcome into the coffee shop to study and read and even learn a thing or two from the roaster. Sometimes they will pick up a few bucks washing dishes or cleaning something. The eccentric lady sits at her favorite table, welcomed and included. People know why she is like that and collectively take care of her. The vegan, the butcher and the clergyman talk about how they can help the homeless population while they listen to the local band. The baristas and barkeeps from these businesses take their earnings and go to the local market and buy produce and other foods from the farmer, the stay-at-home parents and the retirees. They buy meat from the butcher and fish from the the fisherman at the market and take it all home to feed their children and parents. The people all try to make sure they don’t buy things made or harvested with forced labor and they never feel overwhelmed by homes full of cheap things that have little to no meaning.
This doesn’t happen by accident.
If you do not go out of your way to reclaim the local nature of community, you will always have to go out of your way to experience it. If you do not make the effort to regularly purchase local, it will never be easier to find local artisans, craftsmen and growers.
There is no better time than the busiest shopping season of the year to intentionally recirculate money through your community.
There is no more obvious time to reach out to those around you than the most social time of the year. And, since this is an isolating and depressing time for so many, you have no idea how your behavior can help someone.
Let’s get down to brass tacks
Locavore is commonly used to describe someone who gets as much possible from within 100 miles of their home.
Buying local recirculates money back through YOUR community before someone buys something that sends the money away. There is almost no way to live the life most of us live and buy everything locally. No one is making a cell phone within 100 miles of my home and Lord knows where each little component is made.
But there is more that can be bought locally than most people realise. And, let’s be honest, most of us would rather get one high quality, artisanally made gift than a bunch of cheap, mass produced junk.
Start with your food. (Yes, everything starts and ends with food to me.) Check localharvest.org for things in season in your area. Then go to any markets or co-ops in your area and ask for locally produced goods. If you live in an area not currently covered in snow, stop by and see what the neighbors are growing and if they have some to purchase, share or barter.
For the omnivores here, a turkey usually has to be ordered ahead of time or you may be shocked by the price. It costs a lot to raise an animal correctly, by my standards (pastured, only on food they would naturally eat, no trans-genetically modified feed etc.) Before you scoff at prices, consider why cheap food is cheap and see how that settles with you.
Next year, if you are in an area where you can’t grow food all year, you’ll want to put food up and plan ahead so you have your own produce.
Decorations are NOT my thing. I think my home is decorated if all the books are on the shelves and in order and the pictures are hung. Everyone who walks into our home says something like, “I’d love to get my hands on this place,” meaning it needs to be decorated. That said, it is fall on my chunk of the earth and we live in a pine forest so it is pretty easy to look like I have made an effort. For everyone with higher standards, I hear Pinterest is a thing.
This part is easier once you get the hang of it.
Food makes a great gift. Local nuts, honey, jams, candies, cheese, coffees, anything with a touch of terroir is a gift.
Scour your paper, search the internet and pick brains to find local producers. Books, photos, pottery, art, wood crafts, soaps, quilts, knitwear, candles, gift certificates to local businesses, riding lessons, stuffed animals, blown glass, plants, jewelry…the list in even small communities is extensive. Once you start doing your homework, doors will open. Your resource list will grow.
If you can’t find something local, aim for something ethical, artisan or charitable. Here are some resources we use:
OR donate to a local charity. Get on https://www.gofundme.com/ , put in your zip code and go nuts.
Give of yourself
Everyone has something they can give. Are you already growing food and have some to share? What is your skill? Teach it. What can you donate? Can you take a little while to rock babies? Will you read the paper at a nursing home? Maybe you’d like to teach kids how to cook? Can you offer free lessons to someone who cannot pay? Will you read to kids at the library? Do they need help at the shelter? You are part of this community so make sure you are acting like it.
Chew on this
There are 20-30 million slaves in the world right now, depending on who you ask and the criteria they use. There are people used as sex slaves and people in forced labor situations. Slave labor is commonly used in fishing, chocolate, palm oil, diamonds, clothing, electronics and other cheaply made goods. How can you avoid supporting this? Buy local when possible and research the supply chain of what you can’t.
Happy eating, Katy