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Focus on Agriculture

July 2, 2012

Shift Your Shopping – Buy Local

By Cyndie Sirekis

Helping people understand that buying locally – whether food, clothing or other consumer goods – positively affects the economies of communities is a primary goal of the Local First movement, which continues to grow in popularity nationwide. 

A cornerstone of the movement is a study by Civic Economics for the Local First organization in Grand Rapids, Mich. The study, “Local Works! Examining the Impact of Local Business on the West Michigan Economy,” points to a stunning improvement in the local economy if just 10 percent of market share is moved from national chains to locally owned businesses.

In a population of about 770,000, research shows a 10 percent shift in consumer spending creates $137 million in new economic activity, more than 1,600 new jobs and more than $50 million in new wages.

The research also demonstrates that when $100 is spent at a local business, $73 stays in the community.  Spending the same $100 at a chain store yields just $43 for the local community because marketing, accounting and related business services will be conducted in a distant location.

Local First initiatives are ongoing in numerous states and interest continues to grow.

Local First Arizona is promoting an initiative called Shift Arizona to encourage people to consciously buy 10 percent of purchases from businesses based in the state.  The tagline of the initiative is “Shift the way you shop. A local shift, a big lift for your community.”

Shift Arizona is part of Shift Your Shopping: Choose Local, which consists of 150 local business alliances nationwide that are comprised of more than 38,000 local businesses.

Jim Graham, a Farm Bureau leader in Cochise County (Arizona), became involved in the initiative because of the benefits it will provide over the long term.

“We believe that effective community development efforts assist both ag producers and the communities they rely on for products, services and off-farm jobs,” is how Graham puts it. “The stronger the community, the more likely our children and grandchildren will be to stay in rural Arizona.”

Farmers engaged in direct selling to the public – retail agriculture – may find it especially worthwhile to take part in Shift Your Shopping campaigns.

During the 2011 shopping season, a “Plaid Friday” campaign held on what is traditionally known as “Black Friday” (the shopping day after Thanksgiving) in Monadnock, N.H., honored the diversity of participating members, empowering them to choose how they wanted to participate. Some members photographed neighboring business owners wearing plaid while others offered specially priced merchandise. Walpole Valley Farms participated by handing out samples of grass-fed beef.

Cyndie Sirekis is director of news services with the American Farm Bureau Federation.