Buy Local Flathead

by Catherine Haug

Buy Local Flathead logo, http://www.buylocalflathead.orgThe downturn in our economy, coupled with the impact of climate change, are causing people to rethink where they spend their dollars.  According to a February 16, 2009 article in the Flathead Business Journal, a new grassroots group called “Buy Local Flathead” has organized to promote local businesses, and “raise awareness about the positive effects that buying locally has on our community.”

More Bang for your Buck

They make some excellent points (refer to their graphic:  The Local Multiplier Effect for more):

  • 45 cents of every dollar spent locally is reinvested in local spending, rippling through the community multiple times, compared with only 15 cents of every dollar spent at corporate chains or online.
  • “…one dollar spent at a locally-owned business will return 5 times that amount within the community through employees’ wages, and purchases of materials and supplies at other idependent businesses.”
  • “These businesses will turn that dollar back into the community through school funding, social services and contributions to local nonprofit organizations.”
  • “Buying local has an added bonus of minimizing fuel use and CO2 emissions.”
  • “Buying produce and meat from local farmers or bread from one of our many great bakeries can maximize your money’s impact and provide you with great tasting food!”

In short, we get more bang for the buck if a larger percentage of those dollars are spent at locally owned businesses.

Can’t Afford to Buy Local?

Many of my friends say, “But I can’t afford to buy locally.  I get such a better price at Wal-Mart (or Costco).”  However, that lower price tag is only a small part of the big picture. When the price of an item is lower at a regional or national discount retailer, the price of a different item that you use (like electricity or gasoline), goes up everywhere.

For example, you may pay less for that car battery at Wal-Mart, but every time you fill up at the pump (no matter where), you pay more for your gas than you would if ALL goods were produced and purchased locally. One of the reasons the price of gas is high is because of the demand created by shipping “cheap” goods all over the country.

Start with Food

Of course, times are tough right now for all of us; we need to watch every dollar. One solution is to start “buying local” where it counts the most: your food dollars. Check out the Farm Hands (Who Is Your Farmer?) map to find local sources of produce and livestock.

Buying local food counts the most because your health, and the health of your family, depends upon it.  Industrialized and highly processed foods are nutritionally empty, no matter what it says on the box.

For example, milk. A carton of milk indicates that it contains so much calcium. What it doesn’t tell you is that the pasteurization process makes that calcium unavailable, even if it’s Organic.  

Just ask any cheesemaker. Pasteurized milk will not curd unless calcium is added to it, even though there is calcium in the milk. This is because the proteins that bind the milk calcium are denatured by the pasteurization process, and will no longer release the calcium for curding of cheese, or for absorption in your gut.

So if you want to drink milk for its calcium (for healthy bones and teeth), do not buy pasteurized milk, especially not ultra-pasteurized milk.  Of course, in Montana, it’s illegal to buy or sell raw milk, so you’re kinda stuck, unless you own a cow.  Or unless you own a cow cooperatively, such as a cow-share program.  Refer to my article: Cow-Share or Coop: How it Works.

Milk is just one example.  Neatly packaged steaks at the supermarket may look delicious and enticing, but don’t be fooled by a pretty face. And there’s just no comparison between a pasty-pink tomato picked green in Mexico and shipped to your supermarket, and a ripe, red tomato grown locally and in-season.

For more, refer to my articles:  Pasture-Fed Meats, Eggs, Dairy and Local vs Organic Food: Which is Better.

Move on to Other Necessities

Once you’re committed to buying locally produced foods, think about finding a local source for other necessities such as clothing.  This can be more of a challenge, because locally-owned family clothing stores are becoming few and far between.  They simply cannot compete with the box stores.  

But as more and more of us turn to the local stores for our clothing and other necessities, more entrepreneurs will take a chance on our local market.  

The Magic of Community

As more of our necessities are purchased from local businesses, something magic happens.  It’s called community; that warm sense of belonging. We’ve forgotten how good it feels, but we can get it back.

We’ve come to think that community is all about where you live (what town, street). But that’s the smallest part.  The important part is HOW you live. 

It’s time to return to living locally, living lively.  Living in community.

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