In a global economy where markets are globalized and the purchasing power of money increases, the ability to buy local has become increasingly relevant. Local buying is a favorable economic goal to purchase locally produced goods and services instead of those manufactured elsewhere. For many consumers, it’s often shortened to “vote local” or “vote local.” It aligns economic goals with personal ones – caring for the environment, being socially responsible and supporting your community.
Many advocates of local purchasing believe it promotes environmental responsibility. Buying locally produced goods cuts down on transportation and packaging costs, which can lead to larger amounts going to other countries, especially in developing countries where the quality of life is unknown. It also encourages consumers to visit the area directly. For instance, in rural areas, a farmer may sell produce at the market during the day, while most of the population sleeps in their homes during the night. When a farmer goes out of his home to deliver food, he knows that he will be able to take only one package at a time. Because of this, he is more likely to provide lower prices and do more than just deliver one package – he will bring other goods with him.
Because they face so many risks when shipping goods long distances, farmers’ markets have been established in many regions of the world. In some places, such as in the West Indies, farmers’ markets are an important source of income for local residents who depend on the revenue they bring in. These communities have established mechanisms such as barter exchanges and barter networks to ensure fair trading. Buyers and sellers are even typically required to abide by prevailing social norms such as paying in cash and avoiding the selling of food in bulk.
The benefits for buyers and sellers include access to a variety of local foodstuffs at reasonable prices, a hassle-free way of buying and selling goods, and the possibility of meeting a trustworthy local entrepreneur. A good example is Rainer Chalmers, a native of The Netherlands who started his business selling fresh local fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets in the United States. Today, he has stores in thirty-two states. According to research, Americans have gained approximately thirteen million tons of imported produce since the 1980’s. Of this total, nearly twenty-five million tons are from growers in the Caribbean islands, South America, and Africa. In terms of volume exports, the United States remains the largest exporter of fruit and vegetables, followed by India, China, and the Philippines.
Buyers and sellers who benefit from buying local are not limited to small independent businesses. A growing number of large national retailers are taking advantage of the benefits of buying local, as well as the growing number of small businesses which have expanded because of the Internet. One of these increasingly popular brands is Wal-Mart. Even giant retailers like Wal-Mart and Target are using online marketing techniques to extend their reach and attract more local customers and sellers.
With so much competition and so many players in the market, it is not surprising that local farmers and independent businesses have increased their presence on the Net. As the global economy continues to grow, more people are realizing that they can buy local products from farmers who grow their own organic fruits and vegetables, or who work with local artisans making organic fair trade jewelry and crafts. Buying local not only saves money, it can be a great way to support local businesses and help promote sustainability.