Publisher's Note: Local gets a break
Rising gas prices have been good in some ways for local farms. Food trucked from South America or Mexico has become more expensive, helping level the playing field for local family farms.
In our cover story this week, we report that business is up at some of the areaís farmersí markets. Thatís a very good thing.
Buying local produce, fruits and meats is good for the local economy and good for our environment. Itís also healthier and less likely to make you sick or be covered in toxic chemicals. A recent outbreak of salmonella came from a Mexican jalapeŮo farm. The farther your food has to travel, the more likely itís not good for you.
Wal-Mart has even gotten into the game, and not because itís better for the environment ó though thatís an added bonus. That company is finding it cheaper to buy from local farms (mostly big ones) than to ship food by truck across the country.
Buying local has the added benefit that your money is more likely to stay local and create more jobs and wealth here. Iíve made the shop-local argument numerous times because it is a way for us to have an impact on our own future instead of letting some large business from North Carolina decide our future. Of course, we canít ó nor would we want to ó divorce ourselves from the rest of the world, but we can strike out a bit and insulate ourselves from the potential economic chaos happening in other parts of the country. Keeping our money as local as possible is one way to do that.
This leads me to a larger and more controversial point. High gas prices might be good for us in the long run.
Higher transportation costs could help a lot of local businesses that lose business to large Internet retailers. What if it were to cost as much to ship a book as it costs to buy one at a local retailer? The same can be said for almost any business that competes with larger online companies that use their size to offer lower prices.
Higher transportation costs could also give our manufacturers an edge against the cheap labor and no environmental rules of Chinese competitors. As it is now, the Chinese can dump their goods in this country at rates that are below the material costs of American companies. The wealth that has been flowing into China has been directly flowing out this country.
The downside would be higher prices across the board and that means inflation, but if we grew more food, built more things, we would be creating more value, and more value means more money and that could offsett the higher costs of American-grown and -made products.
Free trade (or low-tariff trade) truly is a good theory and works extremely well between developed countries. But as the past decade has demonstrated, it can bleed us if itís not between equals.
So if you can, please take the time to shop for local produce and buy local goods. Itíll come back to you.