Buying local, sometimes easier said than donePublished 4:47pm Wednesday, April 4, 2012
It is so much easier to say that we are going to shop locally than it is to actually do it. A merchant who provides only what is available locally will have trouble staying in business for very long because we are downright spoiled nowadays. We want what we want; getting what we want, when we want it, has been a reality for the past 20+ years. The Lowes and Walmarts of the world have made it easy.
On Super Saturday I saw a girl wearing a T-shirt that read “Going Local – Going Small for Big Change”. Wanna’ bet that shirt was made in China? Why? Because our textile mills are now in China; the cotton we grow is exported to China. We can grow the cotton right here in Polk County, but the infrastructure that transformed the raw ingredient into a finished product is gone.
Allen and I are restoring a log cabin in Holbert Cove. The cabin was built around 1917, so we are trying to use materials that were available in 1917 here in Polk County, within a 10-mile reach of the cabin. So the replacement logs were cut nearby, and the roofing shingles were hand made from two oak trees cut on our land in Saluda. Floors are made from dying hemlocks. As hard as we have tried to get whatever we need for that house locally, it is impossible. The electrical and plumbing materials come from God knows where; same with the nails and roofing felt. We do the best that we can. It would have been much cheaper to buy cedar shakes from Washington State for the roof, but the homemade shakes look better, and making them employed two local fellows for weeks. But first we had to find an old man to teach them how to make the shakes, and find just the right trees, saw and haul them, then split each 2-foot plug by hand. It would have been a whole lot easier to get them from Lowes.
We have a choice each time we buy something, and it is not always an easy choice. Do we support the local grocery store that sells fresh produce from Mexico, or do we eat only local produce such as potatoes and kale all winter long?
More importantly, do we talk “local” or do we “do local?” Doing is much harder than talking, and it is much more complicated than the T-shirt suggested. The Big Change that the T-shirt was talking about must happen with each small decision that we make, and there is no clear path through a very complicated global process. We do the best we can. That’s all that is required of each and every one of us.