Keeping it local – What does it mean?

by Monika Salvage
August 27, 2017
Published in The Citizen

We have all heard the many terms that describe the movement of supporting locally owned businesses: Buy local. Eat local. Enjoy local. The word ‘local’ originates from the Latin ‘localis,’ which means ‘pertaining to a place.’ Around here, that ‘place’ could be the municipality you live in, the whole county or even the Finger Lakes Region. We refer to pretty much anything that’s close by as local.

Now, what’s the big deal about buying things close to home? It’s not as convenient and cheap than shopping online, right? Well, yes and no. I am just as guilty of shopping online as the next person, sometimes for convenience reasons, sometimes because I couldn’t get a particular item close by, and other times because it was cheaper. However, if you ever had an issue with an online order and you wanted to speak with someone on the phone, you may have found out that it is not so convenient and cheap after all, considering the time you spent to get a hold of someone, the frustration if the information you were given was not correct, and the realization that you had to start all over again.

It is unrealistic to strive for 100% local consumption, but if we aim to bring an additional 10% of our total consumption to local businesses, that would be a big and noticeable step. Even thinking about it twice before we make an online or chain store purchase to see if there were a viable local option would go a long way towards changing our habits, because keeping it local is a philosophy and lifestyle choice that more and more people adopt when they realize its wide-ranging benefits and economic implications.

Local means times three. The multiplier effect refers to the fact that locally owned businesses recirculate a far greater percentage of revenue locally. According to the American Independent Business Alliance, on average independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales to the local economy than chain competitors (locally owned independent restaurants twice as much). 50% of sales tax collected in Cayuga County goes back to local communities while buying remotely on the web creates almost no local benefit. That adds up to a huge difference in creating local jobs and local wealth.

Local means close. A closer proximity between producers and consumers fosters relationships of trust, accountability, and understanding. If you buy from a local farmers market or farm share, you get to know the farmers and their challenges, realize how the weather impacts their output and your available produce selection, and minimize your carbon footprint. Just take a minute next time you shop in the produce section of a store and find out where the strawberries come from when they are out of season and how long it must take to ship them here, and what that may mean for their picking and ripening process (and their taste).

Local means investment. Local business owners invest in your community, which means that important decisions are made by people who live around you and also feel the impact of their decisions. They are known to give back to their community and support the important work of local non-profit organizations, which in turn is an investment in local people and services. Locally owned companies also take risks that national chains that are slaves of quarterly returns may not because local business owners tend to stay in the community and look for long-term business ventures. They are not in it for a quick return, but take pride in their projects and aim to leave a legacy in their home community.

Local means unique. Many local artisans make one-of-a-kind items that you can’t get anywhere else. They often take into consideration local identity and culture to distinguish themselves and their products. Local farmers, breweries, and wineries experiment with unique flavors and ingredients that set them apart. Locally made products sold in specialty stores or on farms or wineries preserve a community’s distinction and foster a culture that values skilled and artistic trades.

Next month I’ll give some examples of local options that you may not have thought of.

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