In a year that saw unprecedented and intense wildfires, floods, storms and melting of the Greenland icecaps due to runaway climate change, one thing all of us as consumers can do is to try to reduce our carbon footprint. One way of doing that is through buying locally produced Irish goods and produce.
In a Facebook post on November 29th 2019, Kenneth of Greenearth Organics, an organic farm based in Co Galway posed the question, “Do small changes make a difference?” He mused that when he was younger, he believed that it was “one big thing that would change the world.” Years later, after starting the farm, moving to a bigger field and taking on business in Dublin he realised that “any success is built on lots and lots of little things done consistently over and over again. It is the accumulation of many small changes and improvements and learnings that finally at some point come together to make things work.” Kenneth is a passionate advocate of organic farming and buying local and supplies another small business based in Dublin, “Small Changes”, with some of his produce.
So why should we buy local? After all, isn’t it more convenient and cheaper to shop in a large supermarket? Well the short answer is ‘yes’ but there are compelling reasons to support smaller businesses and buy local:
- Buying local supports the local economy through creating and maintaining local, sustainable jobs. -“When you buy local more money goes back into your local economy, strengthening the economic base of the community. According to ISME CEO Neil McDonnell, every €10 spent locally on Irish products generates more than €40 of benefit to the local community in terms of employment.”
- Local produce tends to be healthier and higher quality particularly when you buy organic as less chemicals and pesticides are used. Therefore, you know who you’re getting it from and what’s in it!
- Land that is used to grow local, organic produce tends to be used in a more ethical, sustainable way than land used for intensive farming which strips land of its nutrients
- It reduces your carbon footprint- seasonal produce doesn’t need to be imported from thousands of miles away with huge transportation costs
- Buying local also helps to create a sense of community-when you get to know your suppliers and support them, you feel more invested in your local community and in the jobs it creates. In turn this can attract tourists to the area. For instance, the famous Clonakilty sausages have put the town of Clonakilty on the map for that reason!
- Local businesses tend to give back more to the community through fundraising drives and investment in local services.
So, now that you know why you should buy local, where do you start? Who can you support? A good acronym to keep in mind is LOAF (Local, Organic, Animal-free and Fair Trade).
There are a number of organisations and companies that promote and support local small businesses and producers.
First off, if you do have to shop in a large supermarket, then you should always look out for the Guaranteed Irish symbol. This ensures that the product you are buying is supporting an Irish business or producer that is of Irish provenance and supports Irish jobs.
Secondly, check out the website www.buylocal.ie to see a number of small businesses and farms that produce high quality, sustainable, Irish products such as Egan Farm and Grogan Foods
Join Talamh Beo, a grassroots organisation of farmers, growers and land-based workers which aims to ensure a “living landscape where people and ecosystems can thrive together.”
Support local farmers by buying your fruit and vegetables directly from them or at local farmers markets. Greenearth Organics and Derrybeg Organic Farm are two organic farms that provide plastic free, waste free seasonal vegetables all year round
Shop in local shops such as “Small Changes” which have links with local businesses and producers and only stock Irish-made goods
Now that you know why you should buy local and who you can support, we’ll leave the last word on supporting local businesses to Christina Lowry of Roundstone Butchers in Galway. She maintains that it takes “faith, hope and charity” to survive in a competitive environment and that “you need to have faith in yourself, you hope that the customer will come in the door and the charity towards that is the community involvement.….when you give back to those things that are happening in your village, thar’s the faith, hope and charity….we have to look after each other ”.