Western Morning News (Saturday)
Buying local ensures community benefits
Money spent locally creates a vital ‘circle of life’, maintaining communities and helping support local economies, says Liz Abell
WITH our town’s high streets across the region seeing more and more local shops and businesses close due to one of the most challenging years on record, buying local has never been more important. But how does ‘ buying local’ really impact our local economy and help save our communities?
In the case of local food and farming, it probably comes as no surprise that if we can source it locally it helps in numerous ways: fewer carbon emissions from fewer miles travelled, undoubtedly fresher, better quality, will probably taste better and is more likely to be ‘plastic free’ in terms of packaging. On top of all these benefits, the majority of the money we use to buy these products will be reinvested back into the local economy. But these benefits are also true when we support all local businesses, whether it is within our service industry, hospitality establishments or manufacturing.
A number of research companies have been taking a closer look at how money flows in and out of areas and have noticed profound economic impacts of keeping money within a community. This flow of money in and out can quite literally make all the difference to a community, town or even village’s survival. Research by The New Economics Foundation found that twice the money spent locally at a farmers market, in comparison to that spent in a supermarket, would stay within the local community. The community then benefits from it being spent on local services, support facilities and also by its reinvestment through local grants and support for new businesses – with the added benefit of local job creation.
Buying local can also help identify gaps in the market, giving room for new businesses or entrepreneurs to step in and fill a need. For instance, if more people were looking to buy bread on their local high street, but there was no bakery available, it would only be a shortterm gap before someone would pick up the mantle and offer this service, once again adding to local shops and creating more local jobs, with more money circulating in the local economy.
Perhaps surprisingly, buying local also has implications on a more global scale and not just with environmental factors. Just a small increase in exchange rates or the
rise of oil prices globally could see the cost of many imported products rising, affecting the spending money in our own pockets.
This is more important now than perhaps we’ve seen for many years with fluctuating global markets and changes coming from our exit from Europe, all affecting our ability to easily import products from overseas.
As such, if we can give more support to our own local producers and manufacturers, this will in turn give us more resilience to cope with any future global fluctuations – giving us greater buying options and buying power.
A great example of buying local is a local Devon food producer that we’ve been proud to support and work with called ‘Clive’s Pies’, who are based in Dartmouth, South Devon. They are currently working flat out to meet the growing demand for their 100% organic, plant-based pastry pies and have recently moved to new purpose built premises in Dartmouth, four times the size of their original home. To facilitate the demand they’ve been recruiting locals to expand the team. They also source their fresh organic veg from Riverford Farm, just up the road in Totnes.
This is a great example of not only keeping food miles low and supporting a web of other local businesses, but of local employment and keeping money circulating in the local economy.
Buying local has lots of economic benefits but as we’ve seen particularly during 2020, it has also acted as a vital source of human contact, helping us all stay mentally and socially healthy, through the giving and taking of support from those we see whilst out and about. This of course helps reduce the costs and strain on our health services, leaving our councils with more money to spend on other vital projects.
Buying local products, using local services and supporting our local manufacturers creates a very important ‘circle of life’ to the money we spend and gives us so much more than just a feel good factor!
As such I would urge you this year, and beyond, to support the amazing local businesses we have in the region.
■ Liz Abell is managing director of The Diverse Regeneration Company, a not for profit CIC supporting rural and coastal businesses and community organisations.
Monday: Judi Spiers is missing the company of a cat around the house