A few weeks ago, I had the honor and privilege of addressing a college class here at Our State University. I selected aspects of this project related to the focus of the class, Social Problems, and got some good feedback from the students. One question in particular, though, caught me off guard: “Why buy local?” In the moment, I talked about the security shortfalls of such a long and thinly stretched food network, and the advantages to a community of keeping capital circulating within it by buying from other community members. But I realized then that I’d made a fundamental mistake by not clearly establishing and defending my main premise.
“Why buy local?” is a huge, important question with many answers; some of them easy (it’ll help your neighbors stay in business), some less so (what if my neighbors make a living via foreign trade?) Answering it well should be at the core of this project, because the “how” is irrelevant without the right “why.” Motivation matters.
Over the next several weeks, I am going to shift my focus regarding the mundane, day-to-day happenings here. I am going to work on “connecting the dots” between what we do as a family and how that plays out on the larger world stage. That means the energy input and return; the time spent or saved; and, of course, the money. Where does it go, and what does it buy? Are we buying product or package? I’m going to dig deeper into academic and government publications for this information, and try to put it into perspective for a busy, low-income family.
I’ve got some good reading material lined up as well. I’m continuing with “The End Of Food” by Paul Roberts and “Deep Economy” by Bill McKibben. I”m going to read “No Impact Man” by Colin Beavan, “Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things” by John C. Ryan and Alan Thein Durning, and “Your Money or Your Life” by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. I managed to find all these at either my local used book store or at a thrift shop while traveling, which mitigates the environmental impact of purchasing them. I love the idea of libraries, and use them whenever possible, but for the long term, there are drawbacks. I’m comfortable with the compromise of buying used books locally.
Plans for the backyard garden are underway too. I intend to keep track of the input and output of time, money, and energy there over the spring and summer and hopefully come up with a clear picture of whether it’s feasible for us. I’ll see it through to harvest in the fall and keep reporting here.