As I write this post, it is Black Friday, the day that all of us are encouraged to go out and spend money to not only support the economy, but ironically, to save ourselves some money for the holiday season.
I personally don't get how going into debt or buying more things they don't need will prove to our friends and loved ones how much they mean to us, especially when most of these products don't even come from or support our local communities anymore.
That's why I have spent the past decade looking for alternatives and have increasingly been doing more to support my local community and businesses, all of them, not just those that are food-related.
Spending at local businesses, rather than at chain stores or online, keeps money in the community. This helps local economies because these businesses are more likely to buy from local suppliers, hire these local service providers, and of course hire employees.
A benefit to consumers is that local businesses know their community, they know the products and services that those who live there want and need, and because many of them also live in that same community, often they know you.
Buying locally doesn't just mean buying at retail stores; it also means the local restaurant, coffee house, hair salon, and even local services such as plumbers, accountants, and electricians. All of these services are things that people need and want and make great gifts. Many sell gift cards or will make you one if you ask them.
If you aren't sure where to start or what's near your friends and loved ones, there are several great web sites that list the independents by business type. Here are some sites to get you started:
And, since I am a farm writer and live in Southern California, with year-round access to fresh from the farm produce, I also want to encourage those that live in a place where you can do the same, to give your friends and loved ones sustainable, local, food and farm gifts.
If you live near a year-round farmers' market, you can make your own gift basket and if you live near local farms or farm trails, many of them have their own gift shops or stores with unique items that run the gamut from health and beauty products to fresh baked pies. Better yet, some farms offer cooking and gardening classes. A gift certificate for one of these would be a great gift.
It's a great way to help support local farmers while getting your holiday shopping done, giving your friends and family some great gifts. It's also a great way to avoid the big box stores and the stress of the holiday shopping season. Best of all, you are not only supporting local farmers and local food, but also the local economy.