By Amy Quarry, Owner, Long Table Grocery —
“If we want a garden
We’re gonna have to sow the seed
Plant a little happiness
Let the roots run deep.
If it’s love that we give
Then it’s love that we reap
If we want a garden
We’re gonna have to sow the seed.”
Lyrics from “Crowded Table” by The Highwomen
A few weeks ago at our weekly Zoom jam night, a friend played this gorgeous song by The Highwomen, and it resonated so deeply with me. During these new and wild times we find ourselves in, I think it is interesting how many of us are being drawn to connect with our community in new ways, despite needing to be physically apart. We are all missing the connections we took for granted in our day to day—the casual dinners with friends and family, quick chit chat with our neighbourhood barista, visits with other parents or teachers at our kid’s school, office banter with our work pals. These moments add up to help us feel grounded, connected, and secure. Now that so many of these touchpoints have been taken from us, it leaves us a bit unsteady, waiting for the next steps to be made clear.
One of the things we are left with in this new reality is our connection to our food and where it comes from, and here at Long Table we have seen a swell of interest in locally grown food. Local food and strong food systems have always mattered, but these times have exposed even more our current unhealthy dependency on a corporate system that is rife with vulnerability to challenges like COVID-19. We have also noticed a swell of support and appreciation for local food, farmers, small business owners, and the roles they all play in healthy communities, and it is at least a silver lining in the midst of this.
Witnessing this time in history, it is clear that if we want a new and better future after this, “We’re gonna have to sow the seed,” investing in the deep roots that will support our communities through these uncertain times. With that in mind, here are some suggestions of things we can all do to help build our local business community in the midst of chaos.
- When shopping, choose local businesses or locally-owned franchises over large chains or box stores whenever possible. Walmart will never go under, but your favourite small shop might. If you don’t see what you want, or the price you were hoping for, ask. You never know what they might be able to do for you.
- Think about all the gifts you are going to need for holidays and birthdays in the next three months. If you can afford to, go buy them now from a local business.
- You can help without spending money. Share posts of local businesses on social media and encourage family and friends to support local when they can.
- Do as much of your grocery shopping as you can at the farmers’ market and local grocery stores or purchase directly from farmers or producers.
- If you can afford it, order take-out for one more meal than you normally would from a locally-owned restaurant.If you have a business that is unaffected by the current economic challenges, look over your purchasing choices and see if there is anywhere you can localize your supply chain for the next few months. Who knows—you might realize you want to do that permanently.
- Were you planning to buy a vehicle in the next six months? Do it now, if at all possible/affordable, and buy it from a local dealership. It might not seem like the right time to purchase, but it is critical to them surviving this, and I would bet you will have amazing service.
- Make a list of all the appointments you have been putting off at places that are still open—change the oil, dry-cleaning, shoe repair, etc.—and make those appointments as soon as you can.
- Show emotional support to local business owners—in addition to facing intense business stress, many of them may also be facing all the personal challenges that come with keeping a business afloat. Ask what they need, ask what you can do. Be kind to the staff in these businesses, too. We all know that retail service is a tough job, and this season is especially intense.
- Spread the word! Many well-meaning people don’t know the potential impact their purchases can have at local businesses. Tell people about your favourite local shops and services and share your good experiences in reviews and social media posts.
- Put aside bias. If you have a negative belief or assumption about local businesses, put it aside for just this month and give them a chance to win your business or win it back. Many small businesses are the victim of a belief that bigger is better, that chains are always cheaper, and that is just not true. Give them a chance to compete. Show them your support. At the end of the day, as everyone keeps saying, we are all in this together.
Amy Quarry is an entrepreneur, community-builder, maker, graphic designer, and localist. She loves her small town and strongly believes in the resilience of a community built together. Long Table Grocery is a locally-owned independent food hub providing good food that is sustainably sourced and locally-rooted in the Cariboo region of BC.