A few weeks ago I visited Linvilla Orchards, a kind of wonderland in the world of farm markets. In addition to fresh, homegrown produce, fresh baked goods and locally produced products, they have an array of family activities that keep the children happy while visiting the farm. My girls loved the train ride, petting zoo and playground and were totally tuckered out by the time we left. While buying our goodies on our way out, my eyes were drawn to the Buy Fresh, Buy Local signage that was hanging all around the market.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the Buy Local movement lately and this was just the push I needed to look into it further. You see, though I have heard a variety of campaigns that push consumers to Buy Local, I never really paid attention to the reasons behind the campaigns. Instinctively, it just seems “right” to buy from small, local businesses, but how do these campaigns compel you to do so?
The Buy Fresh Buy Local program’s goal is to make it easier for consumers to find, choose, and appreciate great local foods while supporting the farmers and lands that produce them. If a store, restaurant or market features a Buy Fresh Buy Local® sign or label, the consumer can be certain that the business has committed to feature local foods and support local producers. This is one of many programs across the nation that encourage consumers to purchase locally grown and produced foods. Consumers who patronize local farm markets or restaurants that utilize local foods are directly supporting the local agriculture community. Further, consumers who buy local produce are reducing their carbon footprint because locally grown fruits and vegetables require far less transportation than those shipped in from great distances. So, get out there and buy some local produce. I prefer farm markets or CSAs, but you can also shop the “Buy Local” section of your grocery store and support the movement too.
The Buy Local movement stretches well beyond agriculture though and encompasses small business in general. I’m sure you’ve heard of Small Business Saturday. Conceived by American Express in 2010, it is a “shopping holiday” on the equivalent of Black Friday for big box retailers and Cyber Monday for e-commerce retailers. Small Business Saturday’s purpose is to drive consumers to local business in an effort to help stimulate the local economy. Small Business Saturday has morphed into a Shop Small movement that encourages local shopping all year round (though I am sure there will still be a push for that Saturday after Thanksgiving.) This makes sense. After all, these businesses need to pay their employees and keep the lights on throughout the year, not just during the shopping season.
Still, I wanted some cold hard facts about why this is an important movement to get behind. Here is what I found on ELocal.
– Throughout the United States, only about 33.6% of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, which is very low compared to the 64.8% return from local businesses. (2009)
– A study in Austin, Texas found that $100 spent at a local bookstore produced $45 worth of local economic activity, and $100 at the chain store Borders brought back only $13.
– National chains often bring loss of employment. The opening of a Wal-Mart reduces retail employment by an average of 150 jobs in the county of its location.
– If the people of an average American city were to shift 10% of their spending from chains to local businesses, it would bring an additional $235 million per year to the community’s economy.
These numbers are pretty compelling. Small businesses create local jobs. Small businesses return more money to the local economy than larger chain retailers. Small businesses are more likely to be active members of the community, supporting local causes and participating in local events. And, in patronizing small businesses, you are supporting your neighbors who work there or the family that owns it. Shop Small. Buy Local. Do Good. Now that is a campaign I can get behind.
How does small business fit into your life? Do you work for one? Shop at one? Tell me about it!