How Do You Define Local?

Dear Co-op members,

On a mild, perfect New England morning recently, I walked into the Hanover store. I was met by the usual sights: an expansive, colorful section of local produce, fresh flowers cultivated with care by regional growers, busy members and shoppers, and professional, highly trained staff doing what they do best. On Shin, a cheerful, long-time cashier, was even juggling—literally!—to entertain children waiting in line. This is our Hanover store. It exemplifies something I’ve written about before: Shopping at our Co-op is more than just a trip to the store. It’s an experience.

A huge part of that experience is shopping for local products. Right now, small family farms here in the Upper Valley are busy with the late-summer harvest. As our members and shoppers know well, this is a great time to be a local lover, and our Co-op is a vital part of our area local-food system.

Last spring I wrote about our local program, and how it is so popular that it has been adopted by other co-ops and like-minded organizations nationwide. But as you know, local—as an empty promotional term—is popular, too. Conscientious shoppers care about local and want local products, so corporations have responded by appropriating the term and using it to described products that may not be local at all. The result is a watered-down, vague message in the minds of many consumers. But I see this as an opportunity. We can take this message back.

Allan Reetz, a passionate local advocate and our tenacious director of public relations, calls the local movement, “a tale of miles and misconceptions.” He’s absolutely right. As he has pointed out so wisely, farmers have a huge stake in the game; they have made their commitment, and it is time we increased ours.

That’s why at our Co-op, we are working on a clear statement that defines what is meant when we use the word local. Our goal is to protect the integrity of the term and what it stands for, based on the values and principles we all believe in. I’d love your input as we go about this process. It’s an important conversation, and one we need to have together.

What does local mean to you? When you’re shopping, how do you define it? I’d love to hear from you. As always, I invite you to reach out to me anytime, about this topic or any other. Help us define what local should really mean. As you think about that, know that I am interested, and my door is always open to you.

—Ed Fox

NOURISH. CULTIVATE. COOPERATE.

•••

Above, photo provided by our friends at Sunrise Farm, one of the many Upper Valley farms that supplies our Co-op. 

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Ed Fox

Ed Fox

Ed Fox is the Co-op General Manager. To contact, email EdFox@coopfoodstore.com.