Buy Local

I’ve been meaning to write about the “Buy Local” trend for a while. You know which one, the pandering about eating locally grown/produced foods, buying clothes made within the community, etc. The reasoning behind it is quite logical, it makes sense in a sustainable kind of way. You support your local community, you support yourself (help create jobs, do your part to reduce carbon footprint, etc.).

But as much as it makes sense logically, it doesn’t tell the whole story. It only, mostly, tells White people’s story.

See, I am not going to say anything novel here, but there is a sweeping wave of xenophobia, racism and anti-immigrant backlash going on in the Global North/Western world. We are constantly reminded that immigrants are the scourge of society, draining resources, bringing their foul to otherwise pristine (read: White) environments. We are the unwanted, the rejected.

Then, these immigrants, these Othered individuals, are faced with purchasing decisions. Contrary to what the politically active want us to believe, these purchasing decisions are not carefully crafted, thought out to make an environmental or social impact. They are mostly made out of survival needs, especially considering that these minorities are also struggling, for the most part, to navigate difficult jobs, long working hours and a generally unfriendly landscape. We buy stuff because we have to. We buy food because we need to feed ourselves, not because we fancy ourselves Che Guevara wannabes striving to change the system of inequalities. Oh yes. That system that constantly tells us that we are not wanted. That we should go back to “our own countries” (whatever that means, in the case of second or third generation minorities). So, perhaps we have heard about “buying local.” Perhaps we are mildly aware of what that means. We can vote with our hard earned cash and support our local community. Yes, this community that time and again told us to leave. That made fun of our lifestyles, our poorly crafted language skills, our appearance. We can support that!

Wait. No.

We can also go to stores that sell products from “back home” (again, wherever that is for those of us who might have even been born here but have been constantly reminded that we still do not belong). We can buy the foods produced by people who look like us, who talk like us, who cook like our grandparents did. We can have, at least for a fleeting moment, a sense of belonging, a sense of community. A sense of being part of somewhere. Somewhere that is thousands of miles away, with a carbon footprint that makes the “Buy Local” crowd cringe.

But that’s what the “Buy Local” crowd hardly ever considers: how the rest of their actions and political stances almost always alienate an entire class of people. Because hey, “Buy Local” to support MY job and well being. You look too different and your food smells, so I am not sure I can support YOU.

Red Light Politics speaks a bunch of truth on her blog, where you can read “Buy Local” in its original context.

37 thoughts on “Buy Local”

  1. I will admit that my first response to this article was, “Well, no, buying local is great and everyone should do it, and don’t see why it would exclude immigrants,” which is a very white/economically stable privileged thing to say. This is why I needed a few days to ruminate before making a response, so even if no one sees this, at least it’s a bit more thought out now.

    As a pinko-communist card carrying liberal, I fully support buying local. Both my partner and I are unemployed, so I can state with a good deal of certainty that this does not need to be more expensive, and the quality of the meat we get from our meat CSA is amazing. It also forces me to learn to use things I wouldn’t otherwise — I learned how to debone a chicken recently, something that makes me feel very adult, because we get whole chickens each month. I’ve also started buying milk at a local coop because it’s the only place I can find local-ish milk, even though it’s a pain to not be able to buy everything in one go.

    Ok, so now that I’ve established my buy local cred, I will say that I do not expect everyone to have the same values. There tends to be a trade off in goods, in deciding what’s important to you. Monsanto produces a ton of organic produce, if I’m not mistaken, but I still don’t want to support them as a company. Fair trade Guatemalan coffee is delicious and guilt free, unless you start to think about the carbon footprint of a bean grown 5,000 miles away. Everyone has different top priorities, and that’s ok.

    Additionally, I don’t expect immigrants to support the buy local trend. I expect them to support other immigrant owned businesses, and if those goals overlap, then win-win. It took me a while why I think it’s more important for immigrants to support their friends and neighbors, and really what I came up with is what I think the author was getting at: their community is the immigrant community, not greater Minneapolis. Immigrants, to a certain extent, are othered culturally, economically, and linguistically and they shouldn’t be shoehorned into a movement that doesn’t reflect their interests.

    Lastly, I would just like to point out that there are many businesses and farms in my community owned by immigrants — the farmers markets are much more diverse than Minneapolis as a whole — and so there are obvious exceptions to this.

    1. Beautifully said. I think one person’s “local” isn’t another person’s “local,” and nobody should be defining that for anybody. If that means buying Guatemalan coffee over Folgers, then heck, you do it, because you know it’s supporting someone’s hardworking hands.

    2. This is the reply I was waiting for.
      My family doesn’t shop at Wal-Mart because we don’t support their business practices. I try to buy organic because I’m untreated bipolar, and controlling as many things (re: hormones) can help keep from sending me spiraling.
      But I also don’t shop at the farmer’s market. The one closest to me only seems to offer handmade wind chimes and the same jars of honey I can find in a grocery store.
      When someone gives me a recipe, I ask them to list what brands they use- and if the brands happen to be in the giant Asian foods superstore, well, then I guess I have to go there. I’d rather buy the Vietnamese foods that we eat- even if rarely- at the Vietnamese store by my work instead of in the main grocery store by my house (also locally owned), because the family of girl-who-gave-me-the-recipe owns it. And if she says they have the best anything, I trust her because I didn’t grow up cooking and eating her foods like she did and they stuff she made us was fanfreakingtastic! I don’t feel that “buy local” means I should shop white. It means buy local.

  2. This is an interesting perspective that I hadn’t considered; and I hadn’t realized that there could be such a xenophobic angle to “buy local”.

    I do like the “buy local” idea if it’s feasible and affordable, and I’ve only ever really thought about it in regards to meat, dairy, and produce. For me, it’s more a factor of carbon footprint. If given the option of Tomato A (which traveled 1,500km) or Tomato B (which traveled 25km), I will choose B. If Tomato A is the only option because of the season, then I buy Tomato A.

  3. There are ways to “Buy Local” that support small immigrant business owners. Many of these places in my town, like the Syrian produce store or the Iraqi grocer, don’t the sell organic, locally grown produce and products that white hippies pant over at the food coop. But I really feel good shopping at these places because I think of them as supporting the local economy too, a local immigrant economy. So I appreciated reading your piece! We should think about different kinds of communities and different ways of supporting those communities when we step out of “buy, buy, buy!”

  4. Interesting perspective on how an ‘outsider’ might view the buy local movement. (Full disclosure – I am a theoretical supporter of the tenents of the movement as well as against factory farming etc, but don’t have the time or the resources to make it a priority in my life, working 86 hours a week as a resident) But I think it goes a little off the rails in its assumption that the buy local movement is opposed to people buying/consuming things from their home country/culture.

    Sure, theoretically, it is against buy local to have stuff from ‘home’. and I can see why someone who wants to still have access to and enjoy things from ‘home’ might feel theoretically alienated by it. But the article makes it seem like that is the point of the buy local movement, and it is not. Its not just about food imported from other countries, especially not food or products that would be sold in small local shops, the kind of thing that the author implies the offended people are shopping in. Its about factory farming, industrialized food production, long production and distribution chains – this has as much to do with domestic products as well. The buy local movement is not trying to take imported products out of specialty stores and deprive immigrants of the things they want from home, but make people aware of the roots of our food and the costs of it.

    I’m sorry, but I am assuming the Chilean immigrants in my neighborhood are not particularly attached to crappy tasteless tomato I bought at the my Food Emporium this morning that had a mad in Chile label, or the box of Diamond walnuts that appear to be sourced from India, and I don’t understand why my sweet potatoes were from Argentina when they grow in the northeast in the winter, but I definitely did not see any large cultural gatherings celebrating it. Perhaps someone is interested in the weird brand of pasta I bought that it turns out was made in Ecuador; that I could see as the kind of comfort food and product from home people get attached to. My neighborhood is actually Dominican and even the chain grocery stores are stuffed with Dominican products, I like to think this Ecuadorian pasta is a nod to the small but growing Central American community in the area. I think only the most die-hard buy local proponents would oppose this kind of thing, and the mainstream of it would not. So, while it is important to understand how our movements and priorities can alienate the ‘other’ in our midst, and this article does a good job of it, the ‘other’ needs to be open to hearing back how its own assumptions and emotional reactions can be addressed and kept in check to make a productive movement.

    1. What I got out of this article is that the issue with Buy Local is precisely that the theory of it is exclusionary and alienating. Even if in practice most people don’t strictly follow the tenets. I think that if by definition the Buy Local movement excludes products “from home” then it’s problematic. It’s not the place or role of marginalized groups to “check their assumptions” of the Buy Local movement. They have the right to voice how they feel alienated, and the Buy Local side of it shouldn’t continue to ignore these concerns. I agree that the “Buy Local” movement is meant to be positive, but there is an urgent need for a discussion to figure out how the movement can be more inclusive to Others.

      1. If someone is making assumptions about something, and they may be incorrect (i.e, the assumption – and it is one – that a focus on buying local excludes ALL reasons for consuming things from far away) then that someone should be open to discussion that the basic argument based on that assumption may be incorrect. Yes, a political/social movement needs to be inclusive and respond to the concerns of others. But that response is “we aren’t excluding you, we don’t mind if you do that thing, it is this other thing we are concerned with and trying to change”, then, the other group should consider revising their objections and, yes, their original assumptions – this is as much a part of building an inclusive movement as having the original founders listen to the others. It is never one-sided.

        1. Possibly you should consider that the people saying the movement isn’t like that aren’t the end-all be-all of the movement, that there might be elements of the movement that really are explicitly saying much worse things. You should also consider a little thing called subtext.

          1. I don’t think it is the end-all and be-all by any means, any more than someone making an objection to ANY movement gets to claim that they themselves are the end-all and be-all of opposition, either. The classic tactic of decredation and defamation is the corruption of a movement’s motives and meaning by its opposition. To cry “but you don’t care about X..Y..Z..” without any actual reflection on how XYorZ relate to the original question. And then, when someone tries to answer that specific question, to accuse them of confusing the issue.

            And, madgrastronmer, you don’t prove anything by googling the word that upsets you in someone’s reply and posting the first thing that comes up as an argument. You accuse me of ‘derailing’, but I think your criticism is misplaced. I used the term to refer to the fact that the original author focuses on one criticism of the local food movement (which, remember I am NOT actually a member of) in a way that seems slightly irrelevant. NOT in that it is unimportant, or might matter to some unfortunately marginalized population, but rather in that it is setting up a straw man of opposition where none exists. I imagine that, for other than the most die hard of locovores, a person defending their love of particular basmati rice from Pakistan or Saffron from spain or truffle from Croatia, would be met with sympathy. These are foodies, after all, who value authenticity over all. There is not, necessarily, a dispute between locovores and immigrant populations. I am actually doing the opposite of derailing, and speaking directly to the argument at hand. I can think of dozens of socially-relevant criticisms of the local food movement, this post was just a little weak by picking one that is not particularly robust.

            Don’t get me started on D4D. Its like ‘stuff white people like’ on stupid-steroids.

            1. The original author brought up a particular criticism because that’s what she wanted to write about. There’s nothing derailing in that. It’s a valid criticism. There are a number of valid criticisms of the movement, more of which are brought up in the comments here.

              It’s not decredation, it’s criticism. If the movement wants to be inclusive of immigrants, it’s a criticism it ought to take seriously and address, rather than ignore or claim it’s false.

              The OP’s criticism may seem irrelevant to you, but it’s clearly relevant to her, and your dismissal of her concerns is extremely marginalizing and privileged. It’s not a straw man, it’s an actual opposition, an actual problem that the OP has with the movement.

              And I linked to D4D because it was relevant, because it’s exactly what you and others here were doing: telling the OP that her experiences were wrong. It’s a ridiculous thing to say on the face of it. And claiming that D4D is anything like SWPL, without any support or explanation, is simply an attempt to dismiss criticism of your tactics.

              1. Yes, the OP had a point. And I replied because I see holes in her argument. Which doesn’t make it, defacto, any less valid than her original post. I didn’t say she was wrong, just disagreed with it – actually, didn’t disagree, just posted my opinion and thought. Go, discourse!! I didn’t realize that my disagreement with her part, automatically represented ‘tactics’. I thought this was how consensus is, eventually, made?

                Also, I stand by my assessment of D4D, which is sarcastic propagandizing rhetoric cloaked as intelligent rhetoric. Alienating, defensive, and intellectually weak.

                1. The “holes” you claim to point out amount to saying that the OP just doesn’t know as much about it as you do. You’re not engaging in discourse, you’re simply denying that her experience is legitimate. This is her experience with the movement. This is what she’s gotten from it. It’s not a logical argument, it’s what happened to her in her interactions with it.

                  And D4D isn’t rhetoric or propaganda, it’s a description of what actually happens. I’ve seen all of those arguments and more, and they all really do distract from the central conversation.

                  1. Not claiming she doesn’t know as much as I do. Just pointing out a different way of thinking about it, and that, in my experience, there are valid answers to her objections. For example, that perhaps the buy local movement is not actually intentionally sending the message she perceives, and yes, the movement should be more inclusive and aware of its messages. Both of these things, as well as the assumption that we could move beyond that if the criticism is addressed, can be true at the same time. But when every answer to a criticism is met by someone shouting that same criticism ever louder, or shouting that the answer is part of the problem, no one ever moves beyond their original thought. Or post.

                    1. I’m pretty sure the OP knows that it’s not the intent of the movement to send that message, but the truth is that it does, and you repeating that that’s not what they meant does not address that problem. Actually finding a way for the movement to not send that message would address the problem. I’m repeating the objection because the objection has not been addressed or remedied, and so the objection stands.

  5. I tend to like to shop at independent stores when I can for the logic-economic reasons that more money tends to stay in the area than shopping at chain stores or eating at chain restaurants (my comments in various open thread about my love Red Robin’s burgers and a certain overpriced peppermint mocha coffee drink aside, ha). My hometown is the third poorest city of its size in the country, and I like knowing that the owner who’s getting my money is someone with ties to the local community creating jobs for themselves and other people who live here. Small, independently-operated businesses tend to rely less on government subsidies than big corporations, and more of that money gets re-circulated into the places where those businesses are located than is true of national or international chains.

    That said, there are a lot of problems with the “buy local” movement, particularly when you encounter the militant and preacher proponents of it. A lot of people have already mentioned the economics of who can afford to buy local (and even as a middle class half of a child-free couple without a lot of strings, we don’t have the money to shop at the coop every week or the time to get to the farmers’ markets when they’re only open during work hours, etc). But one tension I find very interesting is the one you bring up in the post about ethnic and racial groups. When I look for independent shops to go to, it doesn’t matter to me whether that means the Italian bakery up the street that’s been there for sixty years or the new Iraqi market on the corner whose name I don’t actually know because the sign is only in Arabic but damn do they have good prices on garbanzo beans! Now, I’m not stating that to be all “look at me, I’m so much more open and better than everyone else!” It’s more a factor of laziness and those are two local places off the top of my head that I can walk to from my house. My neighborhood, however, has traditionally been a mix of Jewish and Italian (and sometimes even Italian Jews like me!), and there’s been a lot of wariness from the “old” residents about the massive influx of Arabic folks to this little area in recent years. Some people (who have shopped locally before it was the Fashionable Thing To Do) won’t go into the Arabic markets or delicious hummus place or Tunisian restaurant up the street because they’re run by “those people” who are interlopers in “our” neighborhood. And that ain’t right.

    Beyond neighborhood politics, I’ve found that the buy local movement as a whole isn’t always as open and welcoming to immigrant groups, either. There’s a local small business advocacy organization that lobbies government groups and promotes independent business and puts together an annual coupon book and holds monthly mixers. I’ve noticed that the group tends to skew white and middle class way more than the actual reality of small business owners in the city might suggest. I don’t think that the guy who owns the market on the corner is purposely being excluded from the group, “no Arabs need apply” style. But I do think that there’s a culture and feel to the group that makes it more rare to find immigrant business owners as members.

  6. AND ANOTHER THING(S)!

    Can I just say that, while I think Buy Local movements are fine and not actually nefarious in purpose or scope, why isn’t there more being done by the proponents of this food philosophy to address the issues surrounding immigrant/migrant workers who also work in farms–you know, the people who are abused, mistreated, raped, deported, etc.?

    Secondly, even if it’s not the intent to shame or guilt folks who can’t afford local produce/items, it’s–let’s call it–and unintended consequence of the movement. I see it as, per usual, targeting poor people for not helping to sustain the movement, when in fact, the “culprits” of our food industry woes are the lobbies that succeed in giving the biggest subsidies to cattle farmers, for example, and living the farmers at the very bottom rung. You ever see that Food Subsidy Pyramid? Come on, now.

  7. I think the Buy Local movement is, in general, about something positive. My feeling is that the intent is to promote awareness of some of these smaller places without advertising budgets, and not about making people feel guilty over their shopping choices. When I have the money to spend more on locally-grown food or independent shops I do, and when I do not I don’t feel bad about it. I’ll never stop buying bananas just because they don’t grow in Virginia, and if anyone tried to persuade me otherwise I would think they must have issues.

  8. Hear, hear!

    Personally, I blame the likes of Michael Pollan for perpetuating problematic and exclusionary food politics. Here in Omaha, the two Farmers Markets are in the affluent sectors of the city. There *are* small shops and local joints in the inner-city communities, but I would bet serious money that the Midwest grocery chains beat them out on price alone. I live somewhere in between the two neighborhoods, and guess which store is 1/2 mile away from me? Wal-mart Supercenter. Guess where I do my shopping? If I could afford it, I would buy local in a heartbeat. Anyway, the few times I’ve visited the local inner-city shops, I didn’t see one single White person. So much for that “if we all shop locally, it’ll work everywhere!” spirit. Meanwhile, the farmer’s market in the affluent part of town is not only majority-White consumer, but 100% White seller/farmer. Again, exclusions of the marginalized local farmer are status quo.

    As usual, the proponents of the Buy Local movement wield their double standard with impunity; they expect me, a Latina, to buy local (for their agenda, natch), but are resistant to the efforts of the minority community.

    The ability to “buy local” is an extremely privileged one, and to argue to the contrary is willful obtusity.

  9. Interesting post.

    I get mad at the whole ‘buy local’ thing being shoved down people’s throats ad nauseum. I live in a town where this trend has a huge presence. There are two farmer’s markets, a flea market, and about four co-ops in addition to a Trader Joe’s an Earthfare and countless farms that all sell produce. The pressure is ON from the white, college educated hipsters to buy from these people and to shun stores like Walmart, Publix, etc.

    I am somewhat of a hippie, college educated, white, vegetarian. I like to eat organic when I can. I’ve flirted with a raw food lifestyle. I’m a total liberal. So in theory I’m the perfect candidate for the ‘buy local’ argument. And I do, in fact, buy local when I can.

    But the thing is, it isn’t always possible. It isn’t even possible for me to do so often. I am broke far more often than I’m not. And when it comes down to buying groceries every week for my family, I’m not going to let them go hungry because I can’t afford a bag of locally grown tomatoes at $3.50 a pop, or locally produced goat’s yogurt at a staggering $2 a container. NO. I’m going to Walmart.

    Some of my fellow, like minded friends have given me shit about this over the years…they like to give me the argument that many of our local farmers markets even take food stamps, so being broke is not an excuse. But for me it is. I don’t have food stamps. According to my lovely government, I make too much money. So even though I can barely pay bills, I don’t have any government assistance. So yeah, I can use the argument that it’s too expensive most of the time for me to buy local.

    I do buy organic when I can. I have a garden (organic) in the summer. But it isn’t always possible. And I resnet anybody that makes me feel bad about it, because I try damn hard. But there is only so much you can do.

    I too have noticed a certain ‘whiteness’ in the local farmers markets and co-ops in my town. Save for one stand at the farmer’s market that is run by a latino family, that serves delicious homemade empanadas and sells jalapenos and tomatoes, every other vendor is white (and most of them are pretty well to do to boot).

    (sorry for the novel)

  10. I can sense your frustration and anger in your post; however, I feel you don’t really understand what exactly the Local Food movement is promoting. Maybe it is different in the US but here in Canada it is about buying local whenever feasible. That doesn’t mean that everything you buy has to be local, it just means trying out a local farmer’s market for produce or shopping at locally-owned businesses whatever works. That includes businesses, like the Chinese restaurant example, that is run locally but may not use local ingredients. It is important to support locally owned business that contribute to the community whatever the cultural background. There is no guilt in wanting to buy imported items from the home country or background culture. I have lived in a foreign country and I know how important it is to maintain a connection with where you from. So to reiterate it is about buying local and supporting your community whenever possible to ensure its economic, environmental and social sustainability.

    1. And here is still more unexamined privilege, with a heapin’ helpin’ of condescension on the side.

      I am, personally, committed to buying a lot of things locally. But here is a member of a disadvantaged group telling me that there is a problem with the movement, that the movement is unwelcoming to her and to others in her group. It is not her responsibility to excuse this lack of welcome, nor her responsibility to accept it. It is the responsibility of the movement to become more welcoming if they want to involve her in it.

      Examine your privilege here. Actually listen to what she’s telling us. And do not be so condescending or rude as to presume that she doesn’t understand, but check to see if maybe there’s something you don’t understand.

      1. I am not, in fact, white. I think an article like this promotes discussion on how to make the local food movement more welcoming to a greater diversity of people. It is a positive movement and let’s take this opportunity to discuss making it more inclusive. The author explained why she felt excluded and I responded that I don’t and why. From the tone of the article it implied that the local food movement was about using all local products at the expense of everything else which has not been my experience.

        I feel some people just yell “white privilege” and end discussion when this is a point where we can really learn from each other instead of writing of opinions because of the perceived race of the commenter.

        1. White or not, it was still a very privilege comment. Instead of listening to what the poster had to say and trying to understand the problems she has with the movement, you corrected her. That’s not engaging in dialogue or discussion, that’s telling someone she’s wrong and she needs to fix her perception.

          1. I don’t want to start an argument but I would like to know what you mean. I read the article and disagreed with it and felt she did not understand what I understood to be the point of the local food movement. Is that privilege? Is it because I am not American, do I have Canadian privilege? I sincerely do not mean this to be argumentative but out of curiosity.

            I listened to her point on buying imported items and I fully agree that that is an important exception to buying locally.

            1. It’s the privilege of not having to deal with the problem she’s dealing with. She feels unwelcome, and sees aspects of the US’s xenophobia echoed in the buy local movement here. You’re not dealing with that, which is, in this instance, a privilege.

              Look, if I said that as a woman, I felt unwelcome at, I dunno, a golf club, and some man told me that it was just because I’d misunderstood the nature of the golf club, while ignoring all of the concerns I’d addressed, that would be bad behavior, and come from unexamined privilege. It is no less bad behavior coming from you, and it still stems from the unexamined privilege of you not having to deal with what the OP does.

              Instead of saying, “You don’t understand,” which is not engaging with the OP, something like, “This is my understanding of the movement, and these are my experiences with it. Are yours really that different?” would actually be participating in a discussion.

              RedLightPolitics told us about her experience with the buy local movement. Who are we to tell her her experience is wrong?

  11. I am sorry but you are flat out wrong to say that the buy local crowd does not consider that they might alienate others, most particularly those non-white.

    In my town, there are many ways the buy local crowd try hard to spread the local love around in ways that help lower income people who cannot afford to buy directly from, for example, the farmer’s market. Yes, buying local can be more expensive, but it does not have to be. Our local food bank works with local farms and backyard farmers to provide fresh, local produce when they can. That is just one of many examples I could site where the buy local crowd around here try very hard to be mindful of the costs.

    We have a number of Native tribes on reservations in our county and buy local also means supporting their fishing and farming industries. It also means getting farms in our local public schools so local kids can grow up knowing how locally grown, organic produce tastes and how it feels to grow it.

    And when I lived in Seattle, a relatively big city, there were also many ways the buy local crowd spread the love around to those who could not afford to spend a lot. I taught the children of many immigrants and many kids in poverty and, yes, some packaged foods and products are less expensive than some of the locally grown choices. But it does not cost much at all to have a public garden patch and teach a community how to grow their own food. That is very common in Seattle.

    Also, buying locally means going to homegrown restaurants, not national chains. It means eating foods cooked and served by people who live in your city and who, hopefully, get some of the food they serve you from local farmers. This is not just at high priced restaurants. The Asian and African communities in Seattle do this very well.

    It also means buying from local businesses, owned and operated and staffed by locals, not large chains. It means getting your lawnmower fixed by the guy who has owned the repair shop for 50 years. It means buying your spices at the African spice shop instead of the chain market. I could go on and on but I am going to hope that I made the point that you are very wrong about the buy local crowd.

    Buying local is just a way of supporting our neighbors in ways we can. It does not mean that only the rich get to ride that wagon.

    1. Congratulations, unexamined racial and class privilege, yu haz it.

      Did you even read the rest of the piece, about why the Buy Local is unwelcoming as well as unaffordable to immigrants? About why immigrants or their descendants might not want to support a community that refuses to support them? About how the areas immigrants and their descendents now live in might not produce the food they are used to and want, food that does give them a sense of community?

      I live in Seattle, an incredibly white city. And I have been made aware of some things about the Asian communities here. Yes, many Asian-Americans shop at the mom-and-pop stores and eat at the mom-and-pop restaurants in the ID, and yeah, you could count that as buying local. But most of those ingredients are not produced in Washington. We don’t have the climate for a lot of those ingredients, and even the things Washington does produce — beef, say — the high-quality beef from family-owned ranches costs a bundle (and I should know, I own a restaurant, and do buy local, organic, high-quality meats and produce). Small restaurants run ridiculously low profit margins, and those (wonderful, tasty) little hole-in-the-wall restaurants can’t afford most local ingredients, not and keep their prices low enough for immigrant communities. And the same goes for small groceries.

      Don’t lecture the descendant of a minority on how your theory is right and her experiences are wrong. It makes you sound like a privileged jerk.

  12. Not to mention the times when it is literally impossible to “buy local.” I live in the Canadian North. I can’t buy local. Except for ice and the occasional fish. I don’t really have more to add to this, except that when you decide to pursue a sort of “buy-local-activism” you have to recognize the place of privilege you come from.

  13. You bring up a very valid point about immigrants choosing to shop at places with items from their home countries. I would think this could also be attributed to the fact that those items are not available from the US.
    My husband and I shop at the Mexican supermarket because that is where he can get the ingredients he needs to cook the food he knows how to cook.

  14. My city has a large and growing immigrant population, including many Hispanic immigrants who’ve created a thriving community around several small, locally owned businesses. The same Very Liberal people I know who spout the “shop local” rhetoric wouldn’t consider shopping locally in any of the Hispanic owned businesses.

    It seems to me that many people have wrapped themselves in a bubble, and the more unstable and scary the rest of the world becomes, the more they tighten up the circumference on their bubble, until they’re unable to see or understand anything outside of it.

  15. I was just thinking the other day about the “Buy Local it will solve everything” sentiment that is becoming more and more common. And as usual RLP articulates pretty much exactly what I was thinking of about some of the reasons it’s problematic.

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