“Shop Local” is an ubiquitous phrase appearing on social media, in magazines and newspapers, and on websites. But what does it mean? I recently went to a locally owned store, which I was happy to support, but when I turned all the items over in my hand, I noticed most were stamped “Made in China.” That’s when I got to wondering, what is local?
Stock photo by Tim Mossholder from Unsplash
Local has two meanings to me. The first, a locally owned business. This means “a business in your local area owned by a person, partners, or family.” But what does that mean? What kind of goods does this store sell? Are they locally produced? Who benefits from the sale of the items at this store? Where do the items come from? Are they locally produced with local materials or ingredients?
The second meaning of local to me, means “from the local area.” That means, for example, apples from New York state, sweet potatoes from North Carolina, cranberries from Maine.
Stock photo by Henk van der Steege from Unsplash
So for me, I have defined what local means and how I am going to shop local for the holiday season. This is how.
For the holiday table:
–Buying produce from local farmers’ markets or grocery stores that sell local produce that is in season now. Serving dishes made from local, in-season ingredients. Examples, baked sweet potatoes or apple cider.
Stock photo by sheri silver on Unsplash
–Decorating with some locally made or grown items, such as pumpkins from a local pumpkin patch or a handmade holiday ornament from a local artisan, extra points if it is made from a locally sourced material. Local artisans can be found at holiday fairs (many of which are doing virtual versions this year) or at shops that specialize in or carry local products.
Stock photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash
For gift giving:
–Buying from local artisans to support the local economy BUT also paying attention to the materials used in the local products. If it is locally sourced, all the better.
–Producing a homemade gift from your own hobby, skill, or craft. Trying to use local ingredients or materials.
Stock photo by Bernadette Wurzinger from Pixabay
–Shipping food gifts from local companies that sell a product made from some local ingredients. This requires a little more work on my end, such as ignoring the glossy catalogs that come in the mail with their overpriced gift baskets, and opting for a local version that I seek out through a search on a search engine or through local word-of-mouth.
–Buying books that are self-published or independently published or published by a small press. It’s not enough to buy at an independent book seller or local bookstore. Local bookstores may fit into category one, “a business in your local area owned by a person, partners, or family,” but they usually contain books published through the BIG FIVE New York City publishers, whose books are often printed in China. Unfortunately, in my experience and as voiced by others, such as the Latinx community earlier this year, big publishing is elitist and often publishes material that reinforces an established narrative. This is why it is so important to buy self-published/independently/small press published books. By doing so, you are actively protecting freedom of speech and freedom of the press. How do you do this? Reach out to local writers’ groups whose members often have published books. Search for books and topics you enjoy through social media accounts. Search on Amazon for self-published books—these often don’t appear on the first search pages, so keep going! If you scroll down a book’s page on Amazon, you can read more information about the book, such as who the publisher is. Many self-published books are printed in the USA. For example, my books are printed in a state neighboring my own!
–Dina Di Maio, author of Authentic Italian: The Real Story of Italy’s Food and Its People