Ron and I went on a weekend away in Harrisonburg, Virginia after original plans went askew. Although we did not plan it this way, we sure did a lot of local buying on our mini weekend getaway. We stayed at a privately owned cabin (The Dry River Cabin http://www.vrbo.com/391297 ) and instead of talking with a woman behind the counter of a corporately owned hotel, we were greeted by the owner of the cabin, who had already gotten the fire in the fireplace started, and wanted to make sure we had a nice weekend. It was also so much cheaper than some hotel somewhere… or rather, the hotel would could have gotten for the price of the cabin would not be the type of hotel we’d WANT to relax in. Our cabin was comfy, one of a kind, and just the beginning of supporting local spending.
Our cabin had a full kitchen, and so we headed off to the farmer’s market to get a few things (http://harrisonburgfarmersmarket.com/ ). We were both surprised that in January, in Virginia, the farmer’s market was bustling with good stuff. Locally made raw-milk cheeses (my favorite), vegan lentil soup, and all those good earthy vegetables like radish, carrots, potatoes, and onions abound. I love Farmers Markets because you can ask questions (“What’s a kohlrabi? How do you cook it?”) straight to the farmers and producers. These farmers were bundled up on this frosty day, but there was loads of different things to buy, and everyone seemed to be in a great mood. Sometimes living in the Washington D.C. Area can get a person a little entitled, believing their particular area is where progress of the nation is, but I’ve got to say- their farmer’s market in January sure beat anything local in my area! After picking up the cheese, and soup, we also took home some sprouted grain bread, a sinful pecan bar, free range eggs, blackberry jam, potatoes, carrots, and onions. By buying these things locally, we were able to give the money straight to the producer of the goods, and getting the food local means fresher, healthier, and better food. Plus, it’s just plain old more fun than the grocery store. The local restaurant co-op that we only had the pleasure of one meal at had many items on the menu from local farms, plus a great vegetarian menu that made us both wish we could have had more meals there (http://littlegrillcollective.com/ ). A restaurant co-op means those who work in the restaurant own it, and the giant tip jar on the counter means the money is shared with everyone.
Later we stumbled upon a historical mill (http://silverlakemill.com/ )which had a gift shop with local artisan work. I brought home a rug made on a hand-loom from an 86 year old local woman who has been weaving since she was a child. The kicker is that it really wasn’t too much more expensive than its over-seas mass produced counterpart. I have to admit that I am an antique junkie and hardly a shop passed without at least a browse while we were there. The items I have in my house that always get the most comments are the antiques that I’ve found either at antique, or thrift shops. Antiques are great because they hold nostalgia, can be inexpensive depending on your fancy, create no carbon footprint as they are already produced, and its like a treasure hunt finding them. I walked in to The Pottery Barn the other day and could not believe the items that were meant to look like antiques that were more expensive than the actual antique, produced in China, and anyone could pick one up! Antique shops are independently owned, and your money goes straight to the seller. We stopped by a local winery (the third oldest in the state) (www.shentel.net/shenvine/) and it ended a perfect weekend of mindful spending.
A vacation (even a weekend away) is an opportunity to vote with your wallet. Instead of chain restaurants and grocery stores, we chose the farmers market, and individually owned restaurants and hotels. Instead of major retailers, we bought our souvenirs from local artists and antique shops. Shopping local makes sense for the economy, and it makes sense for the purchaser: many options were cheaper than their counterpart, and the money supported what we believed in. A few hundred dollars spent in corporations means little, but a few hundred dollars in to the local economy is truly tangible to the people who live there. Remember that every dollar spent is vote towards what we as consumers agree with.
*none of these places payed us to write about them in this article, nor is this really meant to be a commercial to any place in particular, I just included them because I enjoyed them. Local, wonderful shops with these values are everywhere, you just need to seek them out.