Buy Local – Coming Around Again?

The “buy local” movement has been gaining steam in the US since at least 2005 but its roots go much farther back into the past and many of those roots seems to have grown in our region.  Grassroots organizations like Sustainable South Sound and Sustainable Seattle were formed in the early 1990’s and were among the nation’s first organizations promoting local sustainability.  In 2008 OlyCAP led a consortium funded by USDA and partnering with the local community to conduct a Food Security Study on the Olympic Peninsula.

buy-local-reasons.jpg  During the past few years the local food movement has grown by leaps and bounds and “buy local” has rallied along as well. There are active farmers markets in Port Angeles, Port Townsend and Sequim and a growing number of small farms developing in the area with everything from vegetables to locally raised beef.  Locally made goods are becoming increasingly popular and, in case you haven’t noticed, ABC has been encouraging the extension of a “buy local” movement to “buy American.”

This seems pretty clearly a late developing trend. Virtually up to the end of the last century we were all pretty comfortable having the vast bulk of the stuff we ate trucked in from where it came from. In many cases, that was more than halfway around the world – Argentine and Australian beef, vegetables from California or Chile and fish from Southeast Asia.
A century ago, before the Hood Canal Bridge, it wasn’t so easy to get everything you needed or wanted locally. Yet even then some of the economic forces that inform the local food movement, for example, were still in play. We realized this while taking a tour of some century-old copies of the Port Townsend Leader.  It’s pretty clear that some of our new ideas are just recycled old ideas in a new time. The Puget Mill Company was doing its pre-Christmas advertising and touting the quality of its goods included in its claims was the fact that “since September 1 we have bought all the beef we use from the farmers in this county, thereby giving them the cash rather than sending it away.” 

Buying local was not just a requirement of isolation it was a valued choice with real economic consequences.  Today, people suggest that three times more money remains in the regional economy when people buy local.

Early in the 20th century the Olympic Peninsula was a major producer of food not only for the Peninsula but for Seattle and the surrounding area. With the redevelopment of our farms and a resurgent interest in support for high-quality local food and a corresponding interest in other locally produced items and in buying in local shops, the Peninsula is tugging on its own bootstraps and moving forward.



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