a staff member’s blog on supporting and celebrating Local

In anticipation for our
Annual Harvest Party and Local Eats Celebration
Westside Olympia Food Co-op
September 18, 1pm – 5pm
here is a blog post from a staff member’s experience of being a Local Artisan …

remember this calendar from 2001?

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Twenty two years ago, after graduating from college, I was determined to “make it as an artist”. After several years of exploring ideas utilizing my natural talents and interests, I ventured to take some pictures of downtown buildings, printed them in the local college darkroom, found some discarded card stock from the local frame shop, and put together little cards and went to the Olympia Food Co-op, shyly asking if they would be interested in carrying them.

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The staff member who helped me was so kind, and immediately purchased a handful. Within a month I was selling a dozen a week. This inspired me to go to other stores. Within a year, I produced a handmade calendar (Xeroxed!) with the images, carried in 13 stores with a high turnover. The next year, I produced another calendar with more success. This gave me the confidence to continue as a self-employed artist, creating more projects that enriched our community, branching out to music and dance, and hiring – and paying well – local bands, performers, and teaching assistants for community and school cutural events .

This all started by the Olympia Food Co-op being so willing, so kind, to carry my art project, and this beautiful community of folks who appreciate local products enough to support with their hard-earned money.

This story is to demonstrate how one little seed, one little purchase of something local, can directly contribute to a community that is enriched with creativity.

It takes a great deal of creativity to come up with how one can run a business, starting with an idea. Many small businesses start with a simple idea, maybe something like – hey! other folks might appreciate this! And from there, it is often to find that a mere 20% of one’s time is devoted to the craft, while the other 80% is wrapped up in business tasks. Thus, one can arrive at a place to question the validity of their hard work. And, often, it is the dollars that will make the difference. The dollars that you give to them.

When shopping, and I find myself faced with a decision to spend an extra dollar on something because it is local, handmade, etc., it is interesting to observe my thoughts. Often I find that immediately – perhaps because of my consumer training – I reach for the cheaper product. And then, suddenly something happens, what it is? Perhaps a memory of how it feels to be a small business owner, providing work for folks in my community? What is this urge to support local? Is it to take this opportunity to provide a sustainable future for my community by spending only an extra dollar? To support anything that will allow folks to have good jobs within their passions and talents?

Whatever it is, it feels good, and I want to go there.

The idea that my dollars will go directly to folks who made this – who came up with the idea – who risked their finances to put together a business built on passion – who daily work hard to make it work. That extra dollar is worth all that for me. Not only that? Likely it will taste better, feel better.

Now, for a tip-toe into the Olympia Food Co-op’s Local Farm program… in my new staff training I was introduced to this program, and was amazed. As I recall, it all started with something like – hey, we were getting multiple farmers coming into the store with the same products and we had to turn many of them away. The produce department staff came up with an idea where they could work directly with the farmers before planting season. Over the years, this has bloomed into an incredible program, where the participating farmers rotate crops (creating sustainability of their land), and grow product that our members will readily purchase, while ensuring that our stores will have a variety of product.

And, a final thought of voting with my dollar. When I focus on selecting foods that are grown locally, I feel that I am able to say – hey! ! I want our local land to be used for farms! I want to eat food grown around here! I want a future for my son where he can eat food grown in the region! I cannot help but to think… if a land is bulldozed and poured over with cement, how easy would it be for someone down the road to want to put a farm in there? This is worth that extra dollar, which is my vote.

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Thanks for reading through my personal journey of exploring local. Here are some other ideas found out there in the world wide web….

 

CUESA – San Francisco
A nonprofit organization educating urban consumers about sustainable agriculture and creating links between urban dwellers and local farmers.
A Year of Eating Locally. Katrina Davidson, blogger in Bay Area

Grace Communications Foundation – New York
Developing innovative strategies to increase public awareness of the critical environmental and public health issues created by our current industrial food system, and to advocate for more sustainable alternatives
Why Buy Sustainable?

EcoWatch
An online environmental news resource, combining insights from environmentalists and business leaders, and has prominent board members including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
9 Ways to Support Your Local Food Community

National Co+op Growers
Our partnership with other co-ops, bringing excellent pricing in our stores. They are the supporters of our Co-op Explorers Program where kids get free fruit when visiting
Healthy Foods, Healthy Communities