Why do we need to encourage the local economy?
I wrote this text in 2019 when my brother Jonathan started his digital food market project, Maturin. It provides a sales platform for local food producers, and his work resonates with that of Catherine and me. The local economy seems to be a family affair back home. I think it's more than topical to share it with you today!
The story behind the product
When I'm asked what the reasons are for encouraging local purchasing, so many good answers come to mind. The first one is definitely the pleasure it gives us as consumers. Buying local is a human experience and it gives us pride in our purchases. Knowing the history of a product or food, the people who have been involved in its manufacture, preparation or culture is no small thing. This proximity with artisans enriches the shopping experience and allows us to learn more about what we buy. If you're the least bit curious, it's very satisfying! After all, we spend our hard-earned money, so we might as well know where the money is going and why. It's fascinating to talk to farmers and small business owners to find out how the idea for their project came about, where the materials or ingredients come from, how and under what conditions it was made or grown.
It is also reassuring to know that a product that comes from Quebec is one that respects the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. Even if it does not have fair trade certification, its origin guarantees us reasonable conditions. In addition, the quality and durability of the product are generally better. A small business cannot afford to offer a poor quality product; its reputation in the neighbourhood or in the nested market it reaches is too important for it to make serious mistakes! This is also why customer service is often impeccable; a close relationship with an entrepreneur who wants to keep us among his customers gives confidence. If we could touch a product and see its history and the people who are part of it pass before our eyes, we would probably only buy local!
The artisan's dance
There is a quote that has been circulating a lot for several years in the artisan community: "when you buy from a small business, a real person does a little dance of joy". Because that's what buying local is all about! People who believe in their vision, who put all their energy and heart into building a project and making a ton of compromises for many years. And the only reason to do all this is to see a consumer convinced enough by our product or service to buy it! As simple as it may seem, for a contractor, this gesture is very touching, every time. It confirms that the efforts made and the challenges met are justified.
The environmental and social impact
It is obvious that a product bought locally is less polluting than one that has travelled around the world to reach the consumer. Even if we have to travel to several small shops to make all our purchases, this is less harmful than transporting products from Asia, for example. Especially if we do our shopping on foot, by bicycle or by public transit! In addition, because of the quality of the products, the frequency of purchases is greatly reduced. Solid and durable products are the very basis of responsible consumption. Another interesting aspect is that when we buy from small artisans, we often have access to information on the maintenance and repair of items. It also happens that some merchants offer repairs to their customers, giving a much longer life to items we care about.
Another aspect to consider is job creation, which has a direct impact on our society. An employee of a small business - often living in the same neighbourhood - who buys from other local small businesses creates a beautiful value chain for our society! The local economy is then stimulated, and instead of multinationals enriching their bank accounts in tax havens, an economically healthy and prosperous society emerges. Moreover, a successful entrepreneur is certainly well surrounded. Whether it is his team, peers, a mentor or family, the support of those people who matter to him makes his efforts and compromises liveable. His team and collaborators also feel pride when the fruit of their efforts is successful. Our purchases are therefore a source of motivation and reinforce team spirit.
The transfer of know-how
Expertise that is passed on from generation to generation in several fields, such as fashion design or agriculture, is valuable knowledge and its various cogs and wheels are not taught in schools. The experience of a family member or mentor is often essential to the development of the craftsperson. By buying only imported products, it is the local know-how that disappears. If valuable techniques stop being passed on, it is very difficult to find them two or three generations later. Local expertise and know-how are cultural riches that must be protected by ensuring a transfer of knowledge. For a craftsman, it is essential to know how to renew himself by innovating and adapting to the times. But what is even more essential is to find customers ready to embark on the adventure and to choose the quality and commitment of the local, at a fair price. Buying local means contributing to the continuity of this know-how!
How do you do it?
If you are not used to consuming locally, it can be difficult to know where to start to change your habits. A good way to get started is to search online when you have a specific need. There are websites that list products and foods from many local artisans and can help us discover businesses and make choices based on our selection criteria. It is also interesting to visit the artisans' and farmers' markets and fairs. Going to meet and talk with entrepreneurs allows us to understand the work behind the product. If we don't buy on the spot, it is practical to note our favourites and to find out how to find the products we like elsewhere than at ephemeral events. New addresses will then become part of our routine and then a snowball effect will appear. From discovery to discovery, the love of local products will grow!