By Fran Johnson, publisher, Harford’s Heart Magazine
The benefits of Keeping it Local are familiar to us all by now:
– supporting the local economy by retaining a larger percentage of our spending dollars in the community
– helping to create jobs and fund more public services through local tax revenues
– providing community development
– reducing transportation costs for ourselves and for the products we purchase
– reducing habitat loss, water and air pollution
– building a stronger sense of community identity
– enhancing the quality of life for ourselves and our neighbors.
We’re encouraged by our local and county government, as well as by our state and Federal officials, to Shop Local, Buy Local, or Dine Local. We “get it” about shopping at local stores, dining in local restaurants, having our car serviced locally, knowing a local plumber, handyman or builder, taking our pets to a local veterinarian, having a local dentist, doctor, attorney or tax advisor, and participating in local events. The more we connect to our community, the more we feel we have an effect both politically and socially. Rediscovering our community, and the elements that contribute to its character, gives us a wider appreciation for our ‘home town’. It all makes a lot of sense.
The challenge, though is whether it makes cents, a concern to all of us these days. When produce at the local farm stand has a higher price tag than produce at the megamart, when a quick lunch in a local restaurant costs more than a drive-thru meal from a national chain, or when an oil change at our local auto repair shop costs more or takes longer than at the national (franchise) shop, our commitment to Keeping it Local is tested.
The cost of something is never merely the price. The cost of out-of-season fruit at the megamart includes the additional impact on the environment for transportation from the source, as well as the lessened nutritional value of the fruit. The cost of the drive-thru meal includes (as well as the environmental impact) the dietary and health impact, not to mention the stress caused by trying to fit one more errand into our already crammed schedule. The cost of patronizing discount big box stores is the overwhelming competition to the small mom-and-pop stores and the dilution of local character and community.
Each time we spend a dollar, we would do well to weigh the full value of our choices, not solely to ourselves immediately, but for the future we want in our hometowns. The unique identity of Harford County results from its rich heritage and the diverse characters of the business owners that shape the individual stores and services. Keeping it Local is about preserving and celebrating that uniqueness. Keeping it Local may mean having less and appreciating more.