Lessons From BestBuy and Occupy Wall Street

I really think it was karmic revenge.  I finally received the UPS tracking number.  I should have the item on Monday.

I try to be a local consumer as much as possible.  Let’s face it: it is damn near impossible to be 100% locavore/consumer unless you live in a city and don’t have a car.  I linked somewhere about the average carrot traveling approximately 900 miles before reaching the consumer.  Mine travelled 28.  I have heard about rising food costs (ok, don’t laugh at me: most of my food comes from CSA/farm stands which tend to have some fixed prices) and when researching a completely different issue on the Attorney General’s office, learned that in MA, the minimum wage for agricultural workers is$1.60/hour (compare that to wait staff who receive tips and have a minimum wage of $2.31/hour) and wonder where the disconnect is between the two points.

I wonder about the ease of the food supply chain (avocados in January, in New England? No problem!) and wonder what that is doing to our bodies, our environment and well, the reality of what are we seeing in terms of a constant on-demand society.  I made one of my rare grocery store trips the other week for a few oranges to put in a chutney I was making.  My choice(s) were South African, Florida or Mexico.  The South African oranges were the cheapest: how? Having done the flight from Boston to that part of South Africa, I can say it is an excruciating 26 hour flight.  I’m not going to get into the debate of “buy American” over oranges: my thought was exceedingly simple: how on earth is it cheaper to get an orange from the RSA versus the end of I-95?  None were organic, I’ve come to realize that “fair trade” and agriculture is an oxymoron, and all were probably commercially farmed.  I went with the one from Florida. I’m not sure that I want to go back to only being able to get locally grown, native foods (let’s face it, Columbus was looking for a passage to India for a reason) – plus I live in Massachusetts and I hate kale. I’d probably die if I had to survive a winter of kale based products.

I’ve been thinking about the local business movement: franchises throw me for a loop, national marketing support and/but locally owned.  The statistics abound about buying locally and the economic return to your community.  For me, I’ve realized it goes a bit deeper: buying from a small local farm, chances are I’m supporting a local business that is family run: not allowing a ConAgra to pay a person under $2.00/hour to pick my veggies (think about it for a second: based on a full year, a person working for that sanctioned wage makes UNDER $4,000 a year).

Two weeks ago, I was chatting with one of the farmers who grew the squash that is now in my freezer.  We talked about different recipes, favorite ways to cook squash and had a pleasant conversation.  This week, I did battle with a big box company that still hasn’t responded to me.  The reality? Both organizations received roughly the same amount of money from me.  One group (the farmers affiliate with the CSA appreciate my small volume of business, the other place? I’m a number.)

Karmic revenge.  Yes, in part it’s customer service but it’s also about investing my dollars into my community.  Can I be a 100% local only consumer? No.  Can I be a 95%  local consumer? Hopefully.  Maybe (in part) that is part of the message from OWS.  We have to invest in our local communities.  Our bailouts aren’t coming: but we can back away from the big boxes.  If $2 separates you from a local vendor vs a chain, you probably don’t need the item.  And from my perspective? How can we complain about a lack of local jobs when our shopping habits dictate so much of the employment opportunities available.

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One Response to “Lessons From BestBuy and Occupy Wall Street”

  1. Sophie Says:

    Good post. I posted some related thoughts here: http://www.latebloomersfarm.com/index.php/2011/10/occupy-the-kitchen/

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