|How shopping local builds community, relationships and your local economy|
|by Saul Brown|
|on December 06, 2011|
Buying locally made products is one of the easiest ways to build community and reduce one’s environmental footprint. The experience of shopping local might remind you of your parent’s generation, when growing your own food was common and local grocery stores were named after the families that ran them. When you take steps toward local purchasing, you become part of a larger vision for how business can be a positive force in our consumer society.
Shopping local has countless benefits. Besides keeping money in your community, it transforms everyday financial transactions into more socially connected interactions. Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen farmers markets grow by more than 250% across North America, a market averaging 17% growth per year over the last decade.
It is easy to attribute this expansion to the superb quality of farm fresh eggs, baked goods, organic produce, and artisan cheeses. However, it is more than the products that consumers adore. Our local Farmer’s Markets are filled with shared stories, unique sounds, the feeling of learning, and the experience of connecting with the people who are responsible for growing the food we bring home to our families.
Top 5 Tips For Buying Local Products
1. Visit your local farmer’s market. Meet the farmers and producers of your food. Shake their hands and hear their story. Learn from the artisans about what makes their products special. Build relationships personally. Vancouver and Toronto both have robust farmer’s market scenes.
2. Read product labels. Before you put items in your cart, make a note to see where the products were made. There are lots of amazing imported products out there. Don’t get me wrong, I love French wine. I’ve also found some amazing Bordeaux Style wines produced close to my Vancouver home.
3. Ask your supermarket to carry local produce and grocery items. Consumer demand is one of the most powerful forces in our world today. Businesses exist because of folks like you. The nag factor isn’t only a force that parents cave into when their kids want new toys. Rethink the process of nagging and consider being persistent regarding heritage tomatoes being available in the summer and local apples in the fall. Ask and you shall receive.
4. Connect with locally focused business networks. You are not alone. There are other businesses, entrepreneurs and consumers out there that see and feel value through their local-focused mindset. For example, the Business Alliance For Local Living Economies (BALLE) is the fastest growing business network in North America, bringing meaningful connection back to the daily grid of the rat race. We’re lucky to have a few great BALLE networks in Canada:
Check in with your local group and build a network that serves your business and your values. If you can’t find a group, it’s never too late to create your own!
5. Slow Food. Nourishment is derived from something greater than ingredients alone. The Slow Food movement embodies the value of the relationships that build the network our food system is built on. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Quality is more valuable than quantity.
As I grow my gift basket business, I have been grateful to continually discover many amazing suppliers through the slow food networks. Slow Food Calgary and Slow Food Toronto both have robust networks and are great resources to connect with local producers.
Saul Brown is president of the Saul Good Gift Co. This Vancouver gift basket business, which sources the best local gourmet food products in BC, helps companies build relationships through meaningful and memorable corporate gifts. Stay connected with Saul on twitter: @itsaulgood.