Shopping locally was something that was extremely important to my family when I was a child. We lived in a small farming community of about 900 people. The closest town that has a fast food restaurant is 30 miles away and the nearest city is 60 miles. Many of our neighbors would travel this distance to buy groceries, clothes, and other daily needs. But, my parents were very firm: we spent our money in town. All of the little gifts that I bought for mother's day or for birthdays came from Lola's, the little gift shop on the corner of Main Street, or from Hofbauer's, the floral shop on the highway owned by my mom's cousin. Wilson's owned the grocery store and a men's and women's clothing store, which is how we fed and clothed ourselves.
Sure, this had a lot to do with saving money on gas by not driving 30 miles to do our grocery shopping, when we had a grocery store five blocks away from us. But, it also had to do with a value system that I think is incredibly important. You support your neighbors. If you have to spend money, you give it to people rather than to corporations. We do this because we hope that it's what people will do for us, but also because everybody wins. By spending money in our local community, we are helping to keep our neighbors in business, thereby helping to ensure that we still have a thriving community to live in.
In the decade or so that has passed since I left my small hometown, my ideas about buying local have evolved and grown. They've become influenced by my political ideals and how I think the world should look. For me, it's no longer just about buying locally, but also about buying handmade. But, the foundation hasn't changed. When I need to buy things, all things, goods and services, I buy them from my neighbors. I help them out and keep my money in my community. If I have a need that can't be met by members of my immediate community, I first assess if this is really something I need, and if it is, I slowly expand my circle until I find what I'm looking for. I check Etsy.com and other websites to see if I can find it regionally. If not, I look nationally. Am I always successful? Of course not. I'm a victim of my own poor planning and laziness and often find myself in a position of needing something, but not having the time to make it myself or find someone local who can. But, it's important to try and to make the shift, slowly if necessary, to supporting those who are preserving a way of doing things that is based on honesty, hard work, and transparency.
A Homesteading Neophyte has set up a new online directory of handmade and homegrown products, produced on small family farms and homesteads. It's called The Homesteader's Way and you'll find their link over there to the right. Check them out. If we really care about saving the earth/making this a more equitable place to live/living a green life then we need to put our money where our mouth is. You get what you pay for.