The area of Western Massachusetts, known as the Berkshires, does a heavy tourist trade. Not surprising. It’s beautiful and serene, tucked into mountains that muffle noise. It’s where you vacation when you want to get away from a hectic life. The towns that make up the Berkshires want to keep themselves quaint and free of too many chain stores. They adopted Berk$hares as one way to encourage the growth of local businesses, mom-and-pop shops owned by people who live just down the street or in the next town over.
As my Generation Money story explains, “buying local” is more than a motto; it’s a way of living that can boost the economy of your town or neighborhood. It’s the difference between buying a hammer from Al’s Hardware and buying one from Home Depot. It makes you think about the consequences of your shopping habits and how those will affect your neighbors, not just yourself.
Buying local doesn’t have to have a political motivation. Sure, a lot of our products are made in China (like on whatever device you’re probably reading this blog post), which created a push to “buy American” a few years ago. More recently, the term “locavore” has been thrown around. It refers to a person who eats food that was grown or raised locally, usually within a 100-mile radius (local + omnivore = locavore).
I joined a community supported agriculture (CSA) farmshare a few summers ago. That meant I bought a tiny sliver of a farmer’s crop yield for one season; for 5 months I got weekly boxes of organic fruits — like the strawberries pictured — and vegetables (and sometimes eggs and meat) that had been harvested *that same day.* Talk about fresh!
My favorite part was the field trip farmshare members took to The Farm at Miller’s Crossing. We got to see where our food was grown, meet the people who grew it and even pet a cow or two. (Yup, they’re grass-fed.)
After my summer of eating fresh, I kept thinking about the benefits of eating local. I read “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral“ by Barbara Kingsolver; it’s about the author and her family living for a full year eating off the land surrounding their home.
The main lesson I learned: it’s very difficult, especially when you’re used to finding strawberries in the grocery store in February. For that to happen, they traveled a really long way, from another state, if not another hemisphere, just so I could thumb my nose at Mother Nature and eat an out-of-season fruit. The biggest lesson we could all benefit from remembering: food doesn’t come from a grocery store.