by Dave on June 5, 2009

As first appeared in Coastal Sussex Weekly, May 7, 2009:

by Andy Meddick

We hear a lot of talk about “Local.” What does local mean? Grow local? Manufacture local? Eat local? Shop local? Hire, or work local? Local to what? I asked a group of people who are trying to eat local in Sussex County, DE. I talked to some of our Lewes and Rehoboth Chefs searching for fresh, local ingredients. I asked a friend that works in Wilmington, DE, yet lives in Rehoboth Beach, DE. I considered board members for non-profits in my community, who reside and work part-time, in another community.

We live in a complicated world, so the answer gets murky. Which community takes precedent when many of us work outside of the communities in which we live? How do we balance non-profit work for organizations outside of the community in which we live? Are we talking strictly food, (as in, “Food Miles”), or are we talking wider – the activities, economic and social, that build and tie a community?

Local seems to be closer if you’re in the city. Our metropolitan areas are ringed by networks of organic, chemical-free farms; abundant manufacturers using local raw materials, many small (and large chain) stores

selling ‘local’ products. Many large-scale employers sourcing employees from nearby communities, as well as up to 50 plus miles. More farmers markets (oh the irony!).

I guess we can all agree on a shared need to minimize our environmental load. Here in Southern Delaware, two hours from the closest metropolis, we have to search harder for sources of local growers, manufacturers and so forth. How can we source/shop/work as locally as possible, when we’re not all homesteaders and can’t be up until 4am making soap by hand?

One example is the resurgence of vegetable gardening, due in part to the economy and concerns over food safety. I’ll be chatting a little about vegetable gardening in upcoming issues. Other examples could be patronizing local farmers markets, local businesses, and locally owned stores. It’s not an either/or; instead, it becomes a combination that works for you. Did you realize that a lot of local stores, chefs and businesses buy from the vendors at farmers markets? Seek out local businesses, support and encourage them. Help them get better at helping us all in our local communities. Keep your hard earned income in your community. For some ingredients, local is not an option. I love a good olive oil, and adore agave nectar, and decent cheeses. I haven’t found olive groves, agave fields, or cheese producers around me!

Here’s my story and how local is framed for me. In a major metropolitan area, local can be as little as 20 miles. If, like me, you’re away from a metropolis, local has to expand to include neighboring states and becomes as far as 200 miles. Then there’s the, “Don’t Want to Live Without Products’ such as olive oil.  I used to live in the Washington DC area, with a standard daily 40-mile commute to work. Food and shopping choices were determined as much by what I could cram into my lunch hour, as what I could find within my local town. I split volunteer activities between work and home locations. My community, and local, allegiances were split across two communities, some 40 miles apart.

When we moved to the DE beach, full time, I started my local business because I got fed up of driving back to the city to shop at Whole Foods Market and Trader Joes for decent food choices. Lots of people were doing this! Have you ever sent a friend to Philly with a shopping list for Reading Terminal Market, or DiBruno Brothers? Save your gas, because G4U’s doing it for you now! I grow some of my own vegetables, chemical-free, using certified organic seed, (mainly non-hybrid, heirloom varieties), for personal and commercial use. I work hard to seek suppliers within 200 miles for my business, and we operate on full disclosure. Next time you’re at any market (farmers market, or store), start a relationship with the person on the other side of the counter. Get the answers to the questions you have. Just be nice, there’s usually a very tired person behind that smiling face. They got up very early that day!

What’s your story? Let us all hear your thoughts, or experiences on local? Post a comment. Join the conversation.

Until next time. Whoop-de-doo. Andy.

Andy Meddick is the owner of Good4U Natural Market in Lewes. He can be reached at goodforu@comcast.net.

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