I try to be a positive person—in fact, I strive for it because I believe the energy I generate in life is what my life will be—give or take a cosmic hiccup or two. At Sacred Grounds Café in Edwardsville, for instance (That’s me smiling with the friendly staff. The photo is by my friend and fabulous photographer Darlene McGee.), I always feel happy, thankful and at home. There’s nothing like shopping in your own community to lift your spirits.
But I’m finding little to smile about as my Inbox floods with Black Friday threats—“You’ll have only three hours to get your child what he really wants for Christmas!” Seriously?
This email (like hundreds more) is supposed to compel me to leave my nice warm bed on Friday morning—or perhaps late Thursday (That would be Thanksgiving, a day of mindful gratitude and thoughts for those less fortunate.)—to camp out on a sidewalk in front of a large superstore to—maybe—get a great deal on some electronic gadget, a gadget like millions of others, from halfway around the globe. Mmmm…. I don’t think so.
Instead of letting the advertising world convince me that I need a host of new things in order to create a happy holiday this year, I’m going for less… less stress, less environmental impact, less expense, less commercialism…
Yes, I’m advocating capitalistic suicide. Or am I? What would be the real impact on the national economy if we stayed home on Friday? What would happen to the bottom line of superstore retailers if we decided not to shop at their stores and chose to enjoy family and friends instead? I’m guessing not much would happen.
On the other hand, what impact could we have by shopping on Small Business Saturday and spending our money with local, independent retailers, non-profit organizations, area farmers, neighborhood health food stores, co-ops and CSAs? Way more than you might think—just check out “the local multiplier” effect. Maybe we should give it a try?
Here are some local top choices in my neck of the woods for a greener, more mindful, more enchanted shopping experience. I hope they inspire you to shop local, eat healthy and be brave in your kitchen and community!
The best place I know to start is sort of where I left off a few weeks ago–The Land of Goshen Community Market. Some of the vendors sell year-round.
For instance, you can still buy mushrooms from my friend Leo Sulentic. Not thinking mushrooms are a Christmas gift? Just get a little creative! Pair a bag or two of Leo’s dried oysters with a nice local white wine, some local goat cheese and a fragrant and fresh loaf from that bakery down the street. Maybe include some of your own homemade goodies and place everything in a reusable basket you’ve decorated with two cloth napkins (Organic cotton ones are pretty easy to find or, if you are handy with a needle, repurpose some pretty cotton shirts, curtains or sheets that have outlived their current raison d’etre!). Or just buy some fresh mushrooms from Leo and create an invitation card to dinner at your house, featuring local fare. You can reach Leo at email@example.com.
Lisa Brinker of Wild Creek Gardens still has her beautiful one-of-a-kind scarfs and little pouches for sale. I can’t think of a more delightful (and shippable!) way to say happy holidays than with one of Lisa’s scarfs. Her photo-imprinting technique means that your “gadget” is like no other on Earth… and she’ll probably let you buy it at a decent hour of the day. Just email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her on Facebook.
Of course my all-time favorite gift idea from the farmer’s market is a CSA subscription. Giving someone you love direct access to locally grown, freshly harvested food on a regular basis is about the sweetest thing I can imagine. Check in with Biver Farms on Facebook if you are in the Edwardsville/St. Louis area to see when their membership begins for 2016 and what your buying options will be. Another great resource for locating a CSA near you is LocalHarvest.org.
Next to your local farmer’s market, a great place to shop is your independent local health food store. These mom and pop markets represent the true pioneers of the organic, green-industry world. They are mighty Davids that struggle to defeat the retail Goliaths currently monopolizing and sometimes destroying community commerce.
I shop at Green Earth Grocery in Edwardsville, where I not only can get our supplements and groceries but also healthy bath and body gifts, stocking stuffers and the trusted ingredients I need to make my own special treats for the people on my Christmas list. Best of all, Green Earth has a HUGE bulk section of teas, spices, baking goods, nuts and dried fruit. This option saves me money, eliminates a lot of carbon-guzzling packaging and allows me to use only what I need, so my ingredients are always fresh. We’ll revisit this idea of buying bulk for gift-giving soon, when I provide the recipe for my annual “Long-Distance Christmas Surprise Box.” Teaser!
There is a new health food store in Alton, IL, just a few miles up the road from me. It’s called Grassroots Grocery, and while they are a fledgling enterprise, they have the potential to substantially change their community for the better. Their mission is pretty amazing—as this snippet from their website attests:
“We are a growing, effective cooperative grocery rooted in Alton, Illinois which provides healthy and organically grown food, strengthens the network of local farmers, engages our diverse community in improving health and self-sufficiency, and contributes to a sustainable local economy. Our goal is to establish a resource for healthy food and locally made food products, focused on produce grown within a 50-mile radius, whenever possible. We are involving the community through education, outreach, and networking opportunities that contribute to the restoration of local, sustainable agriculture in the Alton area. Our vision is to help transform our neighborhood, a USDA-designated “food desert” with limited access to transportation, into a home for accessible, affordable, healthy food.”
Now there’s a great place to put local dollars! Currently, the store is participating in a promotion with the other local business organizations in the Alton area that could win you $1,000—so maybe Santa could be coming to your house, too. Take a selfie and post it to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram while you are shopping in the area and use the #SpendRiverbend to be entered to win great prizes! Check out www.spendriverbend.com for more information.
Since we’re in Alton, I can’t forget to mention Mississippi Mud Pottery, an icon on Broadway ever since I can remember. In 1983, Ken and Brenda Barnett established Mississippi Mud, a working studio and gallery that featured handmade, one-of-a-kind pottery. Ken and Brenda were famous for their signature styles and for nurturing up-and-coming local artists. When they moved to Texas to start Potters on Cotter, a young couple who had once been under their wings, took flight and took over Mississippi Mud, continuing a tradition of beautiful artistry and excellent customer service. In Chad Nelson’s and Felicia Breen’s capable hands, MMM continues to thrive and delight. I was just there for the big before-holiday sale, and I’m sure to go back for that last-minute gift.
You may recall that in a post or two ago, I was celebrating my wedding anniversary. I made my honey a special meal to celebrate. The next morning was so beautiful, sunny and unseasonably warm that we walked up to the local coffee house Sacred Grounds, and he treated me to breakfast. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate our marriage than a quiet moment like that. Sacred Grounds is another great local establishment that offers the possibility of gift-giving. You can make someone smile with a gift certificate for their from-scratch, organic, locally sourced food or you can really make their day by giving them an invitation to breakfast or lunch. Look up the local coffee house in your neighborhood and think about giving not only a gift certificate but your morning or afternoon to someone who would treasure it. Just create a handmade card filled with the gift of your time and attention… and perhaps a scone because at Sacred Grounds the pastries rock!
Across the street from Sacred Grounds is Plow Sharing Crafts. A member of the Fair Trade Federation, Plow Sharing Crafts is a nonprofit organization that supports artisans around the world by helping them sell their products in many locations, including three locations in the St. Louis/Metro-East area. While your dollars don’t exactly stay local, they serve the greater good of the global community in many ways: ensuring income for families, a market for artists and environmentally responsible buying choices for you. The sales staff is made up of volunteers; there are only a few paid positions. You can be sure your dollars retain their power to help people and worthy causes worldwide.
So there are a few ideas to keep you snug in your bed on Friday morning and focused on shopping local this coming Saturday. What’s great about local in your neck of the woods? Let us know what local purchases you made and from whom. Word of mouth is always the best advertising for small businesses and nonprofits!
BTW—we picked up our Thanksgiving bird last night from MOB Farms. Weighing in at over 20 pounds, the turkey has made this little vegetarian gal a tad nervous. I’ll let you know how it turned out in an upcoming post! Wish me luck.