We’ve been gardening and CSA-ing for long enough that we’re used to having fresh local food, at least much of the time. And we’re big fans of local arts and crafts, DIY and various forms of microenterprise. And every day that I get to grow something, buy something locally, or give to support an initiative I believe in, I am grateful that I have enough (time, land, money, energy, knowledge, compassion, community) to be able to do that.
Every once in a while, though, something shifts a little in how I view the world, and that happened today. We were driving home from the farmer’s market downtown with a little car bursting with local goodness: cabbage, beets, turnips, red onions, raspberries, Sungold tomatoes, soft pretzels, eggs, camembert, and two kinds of pork sausage, all produced in and around our area. And we’d enjoyed seeing our farmers and growers as well as assorted friends we run into downtown.
As we headed home, I was wishing I’d had a chance to get to my friend’s shop not far away, Downtown Handmade and Vintage. It’s a funky, beautiful, creative place, and I’m feeling like I need a little more funk in my life. But every time I go to buy an item of clothing from an ordinary place (like my Old Navy jeans and H&M shirt at the moment), I feel a little gross. Just a little bit. And I’m not suggesting YOU should; I’m just saying that it’s increasingly hard for me to reconcile my pretty minimal clothing needs with my pretty substantial concerns about global fiscal, labor, and environmental sustainability. My clothing is part of me and yet it’s also mostly part of a culture and practices that I don’t want to support.
So here’s what occurred to me: the ability to buy things you cherish from people you want to support in a community you are happy to belong to — this is the perhaps the least obvious and most important kind of blessing.
Herman Daly says in one of his many fabulous articles on sustainable economics that water (as in the “trickle down” theory) is the wrong metaphor for money in an economic system. Blood makes more sense, he argues. Because economies don’t get rained on from above; they are circulatory, with all organs needing the flow of funds and important central organs driving its pulse, pressure, and purity. (Okay, he may not have spelled it out in such detail; I can’t remember. Check out his work at Orion Magazine and elsewhere to find out.) But here’s my point: when we have money to spend and the inclination to spend it locally, we are part of the heart of our community. When we love what we buy and are grateful to its makers and growers, we are part of the soul of our community. It’s not only a responsibility to buy local, but a privilege and a positive pleasure.
(“Duh,” you’re thinking. Well, sure. But still. Right?)