Hey everyone, my name is Alyssa Johnson, and I am the Marketing & Outreach Coordinator for the Elk River Area Food Co-op. Now-a-days you hear the favorite buzzwords 'support local' but what exactly does that mean to you and your community? I wanted to shed a little light on the reason I think supporting local is so important and the immense benefits you can gain, both on an individual level and on a communal level. 

Supporting local is not a new concept, it's not a trend or a fad that will fade with time. Supporting local is what our grandparents did, and their parents, and all that came before them. It's not a becoming, but rather a returning to the way things naturally were once upon a time. Supporting local is a movement that takes consumers away from large, impersonal big-box retailers in order to strengthen the local economy. Instead of filling a multi-million dollar bank account, when you support local, the small businesses you are purchasing from are real families with real passion behind their products. 

When an individual supports friends and neighbors, instead of faceless corporations, one can bask in many benefits you couldn't possibly gain shopping at national chains. Here are some top reasons to support your local food co-op and all the businesses we have partnered with:

1. Know & trust the people behind the product.

Every other week I have farm fresh eggs delivered to my door. Becky Walker, with Walker Farms, drives around in her blue car always pulling up with a huge smile on her face. When you personally know the people behind the products, you enjoy a connection you would not otherwise have. Becky has met our passive aggressive dog many times and knows the trick is to give him love. This sort of friendship and trust can not be found at a large box store like Walmart or Cub Foods. There is a sense of pride in everything our partners provide. If you haven't already, check out our growing list of local businesses that are committed to giving the best quality goods and service. 

2. Improve your family’s health.

When you buy directly from local farmers or through your town's farmers market, you have access to the freshest fruits and vegetables available in your community. You can get to know your farmers and find out their practices. What you'll notice is most small farmers and those that set up booths at the market are dedicated to providing chemical free produce and pasture-raised animals. Why is that important? Chemicals and toxins are undoubtedly detrimental to our health in large quantities (which is the truth behind most of the conventional products we eat today) and research is beginning to understand the negative implications. 

3. Lessen your carbon foot print

Peppers flown in from Holland. Bananas from Guatemala...... Our food travels A LONG way to get to our dinner table. Often these conveniences are overlooked and under appreciated. At a conventional grocery store your products are days (even weeks) old after sitting in a box and being shipped half way across the world or through state lines. Think about how much fuel, time and energy it takes for your favorites to make it on your plate. Buying local means the product is close to home and is definitely fresher than anything you can find at the grocery store. Plus, you are lessening emissions by negating the need to have your food travel long distances.

4. Improve the local economy.

When a consumer buys local, significantly more of that money stays in the community. In fact, one Chicago study found that for every $100 spent at a local business, $68 remained in the city while only $43 of each $100 spent at a chain retailer.

Local business owners often have incentives to support other local businesses, patronizing local establishments for both business and personal reasons. Chain businesses, on the other hand, tend to get their supplies from corporate, as well as having store managers and employees that aren’t as personally invested in buying local. [Source: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/244839]

5. Keep that small town charm.

Local businesses give a community its flavor. Each small farm has it's own practices and personality. Each local merchant has a story behind their passion for providing handmade, custom products for their customers. On the other hand, most chain restaurants or big box stores are virtually the same with a little rearrangement depending on space and location. The Elk River Area is an old agriculture hub with history rooted in the first cooperative of farmers, the Grange, with Oliver H. Kelley of the Historic Kelley Farm. This area flourished because of the blue collar, hard workers who believed in their work. Let's keep our town quaint and celebrate those who make this area so beautiful.

Of course there are MANY other benefits of supporting local, but those are a few to start. The Elk River Area Food Co-op is dedicated to promoting these values and our vision of bringing the community together through health education and awareness. We believe in the power of consumer choice and strongly push the idea to 'put your money where your heart is'. All too often we forget how much we impact the communities we live in. Be empowered and support the people near you and all the love and passion they put into their products!