‘Buy Local’ Challenge Aims To Educate

BERLIN — Members of the community from several walks of life will be coming together next month in an attempt to take on the “Buy Local” challenge.

For the month of August, they encourage everyone to try to buy fresh food from local farmers and growers.

“We’re very passionate about it,” said Bryan Brushmiller of Burley Oak Brewery, which is expected to be open within the next couple weeks.

Brushmiller is partnering with many residents of Worcester County for the challenge, including local farmer Christie McDowell and Natalee DeHart of Good Clean Fun Life and D3Corp, among others.

McDowell, who owns the Good Farm off Route 611, explained that the Buy Local Challenge was about more than just getting fresher food.

According to McDowell, endeavoring to buy food locally instead of through large chain stores helps both the consumer and the community. She pointed out that the moment produce is pulled from the ground it begins to lose nutritional value. By buying directly from growers at farmer’s markets and stands, McDowell argued that consumers are getting the freshest possible food, potentially only hours out of the ground.

Brushmiller agreed, remarking that ingredients for the average American dinner travels 1,500 miles total from collection until landing on a plate. Besides fresh food, he also mentioned that part of the challenge was to buy organic whenever possible and to avoid additives and preservatives.

“No scientific names,” joked Brushmiller.

The group explained that buying local is healthier for more than just the person doing the eating. By getting food directly from small farmers and growers instead of corporations, McDowell asserted that the community supported itself by creating work for those nearby.

“It’s taking care of neighbors … keeping your neighbors employed,” she said.

Brushmiller added that 70 percent of money spent at a local business stayed in the community, while only 30 percent was retained when spent at a franchise and 1 percent when spent online shopping.

“Nothing’s leaving,” he said, referring to spending money locally.

While the Buy Local challenge is mostly aimed toward promoting food, McDowell noted that it could go beyond that. In her opinion, the same benefits that apply to buying produce from down the street extend to purchasing tires from a local garage instead of a superstore or clothing from a local retailer rather than a chain. A stronger local business sector, said McDowell, means stronger towns and better schools.

“We still have small stores,” she said, adding that a fringe benefit to buying from neighbors was that one usually received better service.

Though the positives of buying local far outweigh the extra effort, in the trio’s opinion, they did acknowledge that sticking to the program wasn’t a walk in the park.

“It is a challenge,” admitted DeHart, who lives in Berlin with her husband and two kids.

For the past several weeks, DeHart has been using her website Good Clean Fun Life (GCFL) to promote the upcoming challenge. An update is posted online every Tuesday and includes things like tips and locations for buying locally, along with recipes, business spotlights and photographs.

“We’re using our website as a vehicle to sort of get the word out,” she said. “My goal is to educate.”

DeHart and her family plan on participating in the challenge this year and have already started visiting farmer’s markets in preparation. Along with Good Clean Fun Life, others have started to spread the word, both through networking sites like Facebook and personal blogs.

“The goal is to use websites as outlets,” said Brushmiller.

However, Brushmiller remarked that the best the group could do was give people the tools and the opportunity to use them. The choice to participate in the challenge was up to each individual and would require effort to succeed.

“It forces you outside of your comfort zone,” said McDowell.

One of the main appeals of franchise stores is the convenience. McDowell didn’t argue that people would have to put in the extra mile and perhaps spend a little more to stick to the Buy Local challenge. Since money and time are often scarce resources, the parameters of the challenge aren’t set in stone and people are asked to commit to only as much as they can, though the more the better.

“At least make a concerted effort,” said DeHart.

McDowell and Brushmiller felt the same, saying the rewards of buying locally would be justified in the end by better health and a stronger county.