I grew up with the ‘Big Box’ store like any other typical American, bounding through the millennium. Buying local was a concept that never occurred me, really. As sinister as that sounds, I grew up in the outskirts of Baltimore. My life revolved less around ‘getting back to basics’ and more on survival in a volatile time of my life, in rough suburbia.
My discovery of small local businesses, however, stemmed from a very great woman. Another mother to me, she invested in my life in more ways than I could define in a lifetime. One of the most magical gifts she gave me, though, was opening my eyes to “local hands”.
On days I was a fragile mess of an adolescent, she brought me to her house, littered with wild hydrangeas. Traveling down a road lined with cornfields, we would stop at a tiny farm stand erupting with bounty. Though the ‘shed-like’ hut was no bigger than an outhouse, it’s timeworn walls taught me a valuable lesson. My ‘other mom’ would fascinate me linguistically, with the importance of ‘buying local’. She would grab some apples, or a hand strewn basket of dried wild flowers to hang on her wall, and in that perfect instance, she instilled in me, character.
What is “Local”?
The term “local” is so loosely thrown around, it is difficult to remember what classifies a product as truly ‘in the neighborhood’.
As an example, when making jewelry and selling it locally, I was constantly presented with this exact conundrum. I was making products with my own hands, and selling to local stores, but often my supplies came from an ocean away. Though I wanted to source my supplies completely locally, it just could not be done. Again, I tried finding Canadian suppliers, only to hit new road blocks. In absolute reality, those “local” suppliers were using my old “foreign” sources of supplies to sell to me! It seemed like an inescapable cycle. But we know that, “Local isn’t officially defined or monitored” ( see more HERE).
But it did bring me to reflection too. While some supplies are simply lacking in “local” availability, there are many we can keep buying local, in order to economically infuse our communities.
More Necessary than Ever
In being honest with ourselves, there were deeply rooted problems with humanity entrenched long before a world pandemic. While a mutant virus birthed a new harsh reality across the planet, it also silenced people into reflection.
One such reflection ought to be a great inquisition into how we can better support our local communities.
I am still the American hearted Canadian who loves a good deal and an ‘easy’ fix to my shopping solution online. But ‘our times’ has also reminded me of that “farm stand’, and some critical thinking of my choices today.
While I have continually tried to choose “local” over “foreign” as often as I can, I want to do more. I am certain there are more staple products I can find locally. My mission is to TRY.
4 PLACES to BUY LOCAL Today
- Hunt for Local Farms and Co-ops. Begin from the ground up! I was saddened to hear how a local farm fresh co-op ‘went under’ last year, from a lack of subscribers. It is one of the best ways to invest in buying local, AND in your family’s nutrition!
- Don’t forget check out tiny Corner Stores to see if they stock the products you need. Often they are ‘family-run’ and can order whatever you need. In times of crisis they often have a big hit.
- Local Hardware stores need support. This may seem ‘obvious’ but with so many products available online, local hardware stores often lose business. Unfortunately, one only minutes from our house, where we frequented for our renovation supplies, closed down last year.
- Local Bread Artisans are an incredible gift to the community. We have dear friends, who have been running a fine bakery for a couple decades. Their airy, crusty bread is as exquisite as they are. At least half the reason we purchase from them, is their warmth of humour and dedication to their community. Though often forgotten, “a familiar face” is invaluable.
- Artisans are my all time favourite. They handcraft articles with ease and precision. I am always grateful for the opportunity to invest in an item someone put their soul into.
5 FOODS to Buy Local TODAY
- Produce is often found locally sourced, and readily available at your local supermarket. Look for the stickers, or better yet, ASK the manager! They will note that you are looking and begin stocking some!
- Cheese and other dairy products are widely available locally. I LOVE a good goat cheese, fresh milk that did not have to travel a thousand kilometres and yogurt prepared by a local farm.
- Grains are something many people do not think to acquire locally, but often there is a grain mill in the community that processes rich fibrous flours.
- Chocolate is the world’s conquest. When you do a bit of research, you can often find local Chocolatiers in your area. And if you are going to ‘splurge’ on dessert, why shouldn’t it be FANTASTIC and hand crafted?!
- MEAT is something that is usually readily available just outside the suburbs, and is SO MUCH HEALTHIER when fresh from the farm! It is often cheaper to buy in bulk, and ends up being ‘store price competitive’. Best time to buy is “Autumn”, but you can freeze for six months easily! Call a local farm in your area today and find out availability.
My Local Favourites:
- Our friends run an enchanting artisan bakery, in illustrious Percé. At Le Boulangerie Fournand, you will be swept into “carb heaven”, and get completely entranced by the pastries and brilliant smiles of the owners. They are open exclusively from June through October, and have the richest, frothiest coffee in town!
- Alexina, open year round, is chock FULL of whimsical finds from ‘gluten free’ everything to dozens of macarons. My favourite of all, in it’s tiny demeanour, is the SPICE section. A towering shelf of every exotic spice, flavour and scent available for enriching your cooking. But many people frequent for their local cheeses, and desserts!
- Marché des Saveurs is a brilliant yellow nook on Main Street, Gaspé. It’s stock is overflowing with locally sourced products, and my personal preference are the FAT organic tomatoes in barrels during summer. But, in honesty, it’s the owner himself you will fall for. He is one of the kindest and most generous souls on the planet and most ready to serve.
- Les Produits Tapp. While this is not a physical ‘store’, I seek out their products whenever I can find them. Located in the backwoods, less than an hour form our homestead, they are genuine entrepreneurs. Their sauerkraut…is UNBEATABLE. And it can be found in several tangy flavours, in stores across Canada.
- Les Chalets du Bout du Monde here is a place to escape, when the world begins moving again. When my husband and I were a young married couple with a baby, we thought it brilliant to sell everything we owned, quit our day job and head to Chile on an adventure. In the midst of preparations we had a month ‘in limbo’ without an apartment. The generous owners of these chalets, opened a BRAND new one to our young family for a at a tiny fraction of the cost, just to support our mission.
- Brulerie D’Atlantique is synonymous with our marriage. Yvan and I literally have a cup of their rustic, velvety coffee every morning between 4:30am and 5am.
How You Can Help: The BUY LOCAL CHALLENGE
Join us, as a family on a mission to purchase more locally. Here is the challenge!
- Buy at least ONE local product each time you shop for food. Dig through your pantry, fridge etc. and make a list of items to look for locally.
- Call local businesses you normally purchase from and ASK for more locally sourced products.
- Research local businesses to know WHAT is available close to home.