Eat, Buy, Love Local

You probably hear the word “local” a lot these days. What does it bring to mind for you? Maybe businesses owned by your neighbors? Or small family farms? Most of us have an idea of what local means – a personal definition. When we go shopping we might take for granted that the store we’re in has a similar definition. A few years ago, when we started looking at what local meant for our Co-op, we found definitions varied widely from grocery store to grocery store, and even from one food co-op to the next. While a locally owned grocer might consider local items to be made in the Rogue Valley, larger chains tended to go bigger with their definitions, even going as far as defining local as a tri-state area.

We know our shoppers expect honesty and transparency from their Co-op. And we wanted to try to honor those smaller, personal definitions of local as much as possible, all while maintaining good relationships with area vendors by making sure not to exclude anyone with an arbitrary boundary. After a lot of discussion amongst staff, we ultimately decided that local goods at Medford Food Co-op would be sourced within 100 miles of our Co-op. Not only is 100 miles easy to remember, but when we look at the map, it feels honestly local.

We hear you when you tell us how important local is to you. Since defining what local means to us, we’ve been working to make it easier for you to find local products on our shelves. Over the last several months, you might have noticed signs with a blue splash and the words “EAT•BUY•LOVE LOCAL” popping up around the store. By labeling each local product we carry with this signage, we hope to encourage our shoppers to do just that: eat local, buy local, and love local. Just look for the blue signs!

Shopping local makes a big impact on our community. Supporting businesses owned by our friends and neighbors helps keep dollars circulating in our local economy instead of sending profits out of state. This is best explained by the “multiplier effect” – studies show that money spent in independently-owned businesses re-circulates or flows through the local economy more times than money spent in chain stores. In regards to food co-ops, it has been calculated that for every $100 spent here at MFC, $160 is generated in the local economy.

Our Ends Statement says: “Medford Food Co-op exists to sustain a vibrant, healthy community and a thriving local, organic food economy.” And that means local is at the heart of what we do. Our buyers are always looking for more local products to offer, and you can help. If you have a favorite local product you’d like to see on our shelves, please let us know and we’ll see what we can do. We have a product request form available on our website and paper versions at each checkstand.

We realize that our local definition might make our list of local products seem short compared to some of our competitors, but we value local too much to dilute it. 100 miles excludes a lot of our favorite regional vendors like Bob’s Red Mill and Toby’s Family Foods in Eugene and Honey Mama’s in Portland. But as much as we love these products, Eugene and Portland don’t feel local, and instead are distinct communities of their own. We define these items as “regional” products, or items sourced within 200 miles or within the state of Oregon. We certainly encourage our shoppers to support regional products, too. But in this discussion about shopping local and boosting our local economy, we think it is important to differentiate between local and regional.

Autumn is the perfect time to eat, buy, love local in the Rogue Valley. Harvest season is upon us, and the produce department is bursting with local flavor and color. Pick up your favorite seasonal fruits and veggies and take a spin through the rest of the store to discover more local goodies to love.