‘Buenos Dias Guapa!’, Señor Pepe says while watching the TV from his home-trainer. He’s wearing a T-shirt that says ‘Aqui todo es muy bueno‘, meaning ‘Here’s everything very good.’ Pepe moves from his home-trainer to the counter where his ‘caña‘ (glass of beer) is located. Before I order I’m already offered to try a piece of the local cheese. ‘How was the beach today?’ he asks. I tell him about my day and order some seasonal fruit. Enough for the day, so I can come back again tomorrow. He gives me some free naranjas (oranges), raises his beer and says ‘Salud, hasta manana Suzanna!’ meaning cheers, see you tomorrow Suzanne!
This is local grocery shopping in Tarifa. Isn’t this fantastic!? Pepe made my day!
Here’s 7 more reasons to spend local:
1. You make their day!
You can go to the big supermarket but who knows where your money ends up? By buying locally, your money and appreciation goes to the local entrepreneur and stays in the family and the community, rather than paying for a second holiday home for Mr. Supermarket Owner. Local vendors mostly buy from local growers in the neighbourhood. This means more community support and less dependence on distant corporate chains and politics. It makes a place stronger in times of crisis.
2. It’s an experience
Engage the senses, experience the local scene, and you’ll come home with a story! The chances are that you will be the one and only customer. The vendor doesn’t get paid per hour, he or she gets paid by what you buy. They will do everything they can to make you happy and want you to come back! Have a chat, try some new foods and exchange cultures. It’s all part of the fun!
3. It helps to maintain the identity of a place
Every town has icons like Señor Pepe. Take Mr. Ice Cream around the corner, or the coconut man walking the beach every day. They form part of the identity of a place. By spending your money locally, you give back to the place you visit, and the money is reinvested into the destination. This is good for the travellers who will visit in the coming years, and good for future generations.
4. It’s better for the environment
Local vendors buy from their local farmer or friend, or even grow the food themselves. This means that little or no fuel is burned to get a meal to you. Not to mention less plastic, fewer chemicals, and less pollution. At the market in Las Palmas, they will pick the greenest fruits and veggies for you which will last the longest. They even come and bring it in carton boxes to the boat, without any plastic packaging. It’s cheaper for you, you support the local entrepreneur, and reduce your plastic footprint.
Did you know that 90% of the world’s goods are transferred by pollutive tanker ships? A large portion of this is unnecessary and is driven by the demand of consumers who either don’t know or don’t care about the impact of imports/exports on the environment. We don’t need to eat a papaya from Brazil if it’s orange season in Spain. Which brings me to point five…
5. Food is fresher, tastier and healthier
Okay, so maybe it would be nice to have mangos all year round, imported from Timbuktu. But the seasonal fruit from the neighbourhood is actually much healthier, and tastier too! Have you ever tried an orange straight from an orange tree? De-li-cious! And if you’re in a faraway country, why not just try that weird looking veggie you see everywhere? It’s in season; the locals are buying it, so you might just find a new favourite!
6. You know where the food comes from
When you ask a Western kid these days where eggs come from, they are more likely to say ‘the supermarket’ instead of “a chicken”, or “the farmer.” The local vendor can tell you exactly where the food has come from, and probably with a fantastic story attached!
7. It helps to preserve spaces and places
Do you know those little moments of happiness when you look out on endless fields of sunflowers, palmtrees, or the greenest rice paddies? Let those moments serve as a reminder that these beautiful landscapes, managed by the local farmer, only survive when the farmer sells enough of what’s growing there. Selling land for development shouldn’t be the more tempting option. By making the food chain smaller, more money goes back to where the product comes from, stimulating local economies and reducing dependency on distant buyers.