Here are a few principles to keep in mind:
- Buy less. We can’t foster sustainability in the long term without reducing consumption of goods and resources. That means buying less (or buying used), but buying better (higher quality, longer lasting, more community impact) when we do buy. Make fewer purchases, but make each one count.
- Given two, choose locally owned. Not everything we want or need has a local solution. But when it does, we can make our purchases count by going to the business that’s locally owned. Learn about the ways that local ownership positively benefits our economy and communities.
- Reward stewardship. Local owners run their businesses with community in mind, for the obvious but important reason that they live here too. Get to know the people behind businesses. Find out what they are doing to steward community, and then reward that commitment with your daily purchases.
Michael Shuman describes a purchasing hierarchy that can guide our thinking: run every choice through a chain of questions along a local impact scale.
- Is it made or grown locally, where the production is a source of jobs and wealth for the community?
- Is it bought from a locally owned business, where the owner’s stake in the community is a source of benefit and long-term wealth generation?
- Does it use local ingredients or raw materials, thereby supporting strong local markets between businesses and suppliers?
- And finally, is it a large purchase or investment? – since those are the most important to try and keep local.
We won’t answer yes to every question with every purchase, and there will be times when the local choice is not most attractive for other reasons. But we can ask the questions. We can make the connection between the communities we want, the change we need, and the businesses we already have.
Three times as much money stays locally when spent locally. This reverberation of economic power, the local multiplier, results in an interdependent network of known and trusted businesses and service providers buying from one another over and over again. This is the fabric of a strong local economy.
Thinking local first means remembering the multiplier and voting with your dollars for the kind of community you want to have.
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Valley Food & Farm and Local First Coordinator
Local First, Food & Farm
Local First, Food & Farm
— Nancy LaRowe, Valley Food & Farm and Local First Coordinator
Nancy joined Vital Communities as the Valley Food & Farm Coordinator in 2014. She works to support and grow our local food system and economy. Nancy has lived, worked, and farmed in the Upper Valley for more than 25 years and believes our community is healthier and stronger when our connections to food and the farms that produce it stay vital.
Nancy's informal job title is Farmer-in-Residence: she also runs Hogwash Farm, a pasture-based livestock farm in Norwich, Vt., that focuses on heritage breed animals. Nancy is on the Board of the Norwich Farmers' Market, and a retired Norwich volunteer firefighter and EMT. She loves puttering in the garden, hiking with her dog, and, of course, bacon.