—by Leigh, founder & co-organizer of Dig In! Food & Farming Festival
Everyone eats! For me, eating local is about putting my food budget toward what I believe. In a nutshell, every dollar we move to local, naturally grown food actively supports:
- community connections
- local economy and jobs,
- cleaner watersheds
- protection of birds
- bees and wildlife biodiversity
- local small-scale farmers making a living
- food security (by having local farms)
- clearer air
- food safety
- better nutrition and health
- better tasting food
- time with family and friends
- small family farms,
- ethically-raised farm animals
- living topsoil
- fair trade
- fair treatment of workers
On the other hand, every dollar we spend in the agribusiness/big-box/industrial model actively supports a system responsible for:
- 1/3 of worldwide manmade carbon emissions
- injustice to workers
- inhumane treatment of animals
- pollution of water, air, soil (and humans) with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides
- massive and irresponsible fossil fuel use for transport, fertilizers, and chemicals
- widespread deforestation
- topsoil erosion
- dead zones in oceans
- aquifer depletion
- enormous monocultures
- antibiotic resistance
- increased poverty
- increased obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancers etc…. Shall I go on?
To say that moving food dollars to local and organic food is win-win, is a giant understatement. Yet many overlook the powerful and political action that buying local can be. Local food is meaningful action towards sustainability and ethics. And it just so happens to enrich communities, human connections, and happens to be tasty and enjoyable.
Buying from locally-owned, independent businesses has an important ‘multiplier’ effect for a community. For example, research shows one hundred dollars spent at a local independent bookstore will create $45 for the local economy. Spend the same hundred at a chain store and only $13 remains in this community.
One study showed that if Seattle area residents put just 20% of their food budgets into local food, it would inject a billion dollars a year into their economy. In NWA, our 20% could make an impact of well over a hundred-million dollars a year to our economy.
You can come at it from the angle of a foodie, a chef, a social-justice advocate, a mayor, nature lover, chaplain, a child nutrition expert, a survivalist, local jobs enthusiast, environmental activist, a health nut, an economist, a poet, a carbon footprint counter, liberal, conservative, or a community builder, etc. and from every angle, going local makes sense.
Yes, prices for local and naturally-grown food are often higher than the artificially low prices at big box stores. Those low prices are subsidized by injustice. Start where you can but don’t feel guilty if you go slow. Let what you love lead you. Focus in on what you can do.
I invite you to see just how many of your food dollars you can move into the local economy. Could you commit even 10% or 20% of the money you already spend to local and organic endeavors? Remember the multiplier effect, every bit matters. You may find it’s so rewarding that you challenge yourself to see just how local you can go. Prepare for enjoyment. I invite you to experience how empowering, enlivening and delicious digging into home can be.
—Leigh of Larrapin Garden Blog
Founder & Co-Organizer of Dig In! Food & Farming Festival
Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA