Our stand at the bi-weekly Burlington winter farmer’s market is swamped this Saturday morning. Eager feast-planners are out in droves and grabbing what they can of the bounty of local produce, meats, cheeses and other locally crafted goodies offered in Memorial Auditorium.
Localvores that didn’t think far enough in advance can do last-minute shopping this Wednesday at the Onion River Co-op or Healthy Living Natural Foods Market here in town.
Our Thanksgiving mornings growing up were never without a last minute run (or four) to the closest Acme supermarket on Baltimore Pike. Surely those who submit to this farmer’s market frenzy are not immune to holiday forgetfulness. Where do their last minute runs for milk or onions take them?
Thanksgiving day is one of the two day’s every year that the downtown cooperative market is closed, and Healthy Living is notoriously overpriced. It’s nicknamed “Wealthy Living” to the tune of the “Whole Paycheck” moniker given the national chain “Whole Foods”.
These last-minute local food enthusiasts will likely end up at Shaw’s, Price Chopper or Hannaford’s, where they’ll find Argentinian garlic and Israeli sweet peppers. Perhaps they may find locally distributed products like Shadow Cross Farm eggs or Vermont Smoke and Cure Bacon. The eggs are sent out from Burlington’s neighbor to the north, Colchester, but are laid by hens throughout New England. The bacon, is smoked within Chittenden county lines, but the meat first travels hundreds of miles to get to the Hinesburg facillity.
What price will these Thanksgiving procrastinators pay for their wait? They’ll probably pay half the price for brussels, bread and brisket than they would have this Saturday at the farmer’s market.
This is the trouble. The bottom line is increasingly important for many families whose belts are drawn tight around their budgets. So, we support large suppliers and producers, because they can afford to offer the prices we can afford. The true cost, though, is not hard to uncover.
By supporting large, national and international chains, we are not supporting the producers and suppliers in our own backyard. We are not supporting our local economy. The belt grows tighter. If we aren’t supporting our neighbors, we’re not supporting ourselves.
If that farmer can’t hire another five workers, so go five local jobs. If that farmer can’t afford to buy a house to live in, so go local tax revenues to provide better schools and community services. So go more local jobs. And so on.
This is applicable on a national scale as well, because, although vast, what happens to our nation as a whole impacts each of us. We have grown short-sighted, clinging to what little we can acquire by buying goods made cheaply overseas at half the price of our home-made goods.
I read recently that if each American spent just $65 of the $700 it is estimated they will spend on Christmas presents on U.S.-made products, that it would create 200,000 American jobs. What if we spent all of it on homegrown gifts?
We spend a lot of time waiting for the government to enact changes and bring jobs back to the land of the brave. But together, we could make those changes ourselves. It’s not just a flag-waving, redneck, Born in the U.S.A. idea. Buying Locally and American made goods is an investment in our future. The more we invest, the faster the return. It’s time we stop making the excuse of not being able to afford the higher-quality local products. We can’t afford not to.