Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Be A Local Hero

First published in The Oxford Journal on Wednesday, May 21, 2014 by Sara Jewell.

One Saturday morning during my first summer as an official resident of Nova Scotia, my husband and I headed to the Pugwash Farmers’ Market.
“Now let’s go to the market in Tatamagouche,” we said and down the road we went.
“Now let’s go to the market in Truro,” we said and we carried on down the road.
“Now let’s go to Masstown,” we said as we drove home.
“Now let’s go to Economy,” we said and eight hours later, we arrived back home, having made an entire day, and one big circle, of buying local.
It remains the best day trip we’ve had, one we never repeated but always say we should.
It gave us not only an appreciation for the size of the bladder of our dog, left behind since we were only going to be gone an hour, but also for the abundance of locally grown products both edible and artistic that are available within an hour of home. 
According to the website for Select Nova Scotia (the government-funded agency that encourages us to buy local), “Nova Scotia has the highest number of farmers’ markets per capita in Canada. Farmers who sell directly to consumers via farm gates, farmers’ markets and CSAs receive a larger (and fairer) portion of food profits.”
So it’s really a no-brainer for buying locally grown, locally created products. We support our neighbours, some of whom have chosen our county as the place to start their small market farm or from which to create and sell their art, and in turn, their success supports other local enterprises, including community groups and events. When our money stays in our own communities, it makes our local economy stronger.
It gives us all a reason to continue living in rural Nova Scotia. 
Since this is stating the obvious, this is the end of the column, right? It’s not because there are those of us who look at the prices charged by local producers and balk. 
Years ago, my best friend, Sarah Whaley, who is an artist, explained to me why handmade and homemade items are, as prospective buyers complain, “so expensive”.
She created handpainted and personalized Christmas ornaments. 
“I had a woman buy 11 as gifts for each of her grandchildren who had different interests so she asked for a different design on each one,” Sarah told me. “One custom ornament could take me up to 15 hours from start to finish. By the time I paid for supplies, I was making just over a dollar an hour.”
At the time, she was working at a gift shop whose owner allowed Sarah to sell her own ornaments alongside the mass-produced ones brought in for Christmas.
“Each of those ornaments could be bought for less than six dollars. For most customers, purchasing four or five ornaments for $25 was a much better deal than one of mine,” she said. “Most people have no idea the amount of time goes into one-of-a-kind works of art. Most may not care.”
So that six dollar jar of raspberry jam? Buy it. Did you spend an afternoon picking the berries? Did you spend another afternoon making the jam? Did you purchase the jars and lids and sugar and pectin? Of course not. That’s why you are buying that mass-produced, preservative-laced jam at the grocery store for $4.99.
Grocery stores, shopping malls, big box stores and now online shopping keep us completely removed from the process of making food and gifts. That wooden boat for $19.99 of which there are 5,000 copies? Made in China. That one-of-a-kind wooden boat carved by the guy down the road in his garage? The $75 he’s charging is a steal.
A lot of thought, consideration and hard work goes into the creation of local products, whether it’s pumpkin seedlings, apple jelly or sea glass earrings. A lot of heart and soul, too, plus a big dose of faith. Families are relying on their neighbours buying local in order to make it worth their investment of money, time and talent. 
 When you buy a local product, you are bringing home a piece of someone’s dream. Whether you eat it, plant or display it, be part of making that dream a reality.

Graphic courtesy of Conscious Consumers

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