(reposted from 29/10/2020 but still relevant)
2020 has been and extraordinary year. Often we use the word extraordinary in a positive sense, but unfortunately in this case I mean, anything but ordinary. Many local businesses are having a hard time. Back in March we all thought, “sure I can resist a couple of months without working”. Now as we approach month nine of the pandemic of 2020, many businesses have not been able to reopen their doors, many who do don’t cover the costs but open anyway, and a small few are doing ok.
One of the things that I most appreciate about this period is that people may be angry, sad and even a little bit desperate, but there is still a lingering sense of “we will get through this” in the air. There is a community camaraderie. People support each other and appreciate that even the smallest gesture can change the outcome of one’s day.
It is now as the uncertainty of winter looms ahead of us, that shopping local can make a difference not just for the small businesses but in a broader sense to start rebuilding our once thriving community in Florence.
And if that is not enough, then here are just some of the other reasons why!
Reducing our environmental footprint
Not only do fresh local products travel much shorter distances but in general the farming principles used by local growers are far less damaging to the environment. Seasonal produce and crop rotation also reduce the need for pesticides and contribute to overall soil health and maintaining the ecosystem.
Local initiatives create local jobs
Shopping local contributes directly to the local economy. Contributing to the success of local businesses allows them to grow and provide opportunities to others. A thriving community leads to local collaboration and general prosperity. Safe guarding our small local businesses protects our cultural and culinary uniqueness and encourages others to do the same.
Undeniably the flavor of locally grown, seasonal produce cannot be compared to fruits and vegetables purchased from the supermarket. Unfortunately we don’t really know where our supermarket vegetables come from, how long they have been stored and refrigerated, or how many miles they have traveled before we take them home. Eliminating the need for storage and transport means that the carrots pulled out of the ground today, can be on your table tomorrow.
Small businesses tell a story
Often small businesses in Italy have been passed from generation to generation. Not only do you have a more personalized shopping experience but frequently the owner is the person that is serving you. Every time you go, you get to know a little bit more about who they are, where they come from, and how they came to be running the business. Small businesses approach their craft or trade with passion and dedication and their products tell their story.
Not just food
When we discuss supporting the local community and reducing our environmental footprint, we almost always focus on food, and in particular fresh produce. Let’s not forget that our community is made up of many talents and many producers. Artists and artisans covering a vast range of different sectors; non-perishable food products, wine of course, fashion and bags, jewelry and gifts, homewares, cosmetics…and of course restaurants, cafes, and bars. Many of these micro-entrepreneurs are promoting sustainability. Many are eco-responsible. Many source local products. They have a small environmental footprint.
Exploring promotes health and wellbeing
Every household has basic needs. Staples products that we require for every day. Things that we pick up in a rush at the supermarket that we can’t do without. For the rest there is no reason why we shouldn’t explore.
Look out for local daily, weekly or monthly markets where you can meet the growers or producers. It gives you an opportunity to meet the owner and ask about what they make. Wander around the shops and get a little lost. There are so many ‘secret’ gems just waiting to be discovered in your own city. You might just stubble upon the perfect Christmas gift for your sister, or find that one item that you have been searching for for ages.
How does this promote health? This year, more than any other, we have learnt how to appreciate our freedom to move around. Leave the car behind. Get outdoors. Wander around and breathe the fresh air. Get in some steps. Discover new things and places. Slow down and appreciate what it is that we have around us. Although you may not come home with all the essentials for making dinner tonight, I can guarantee that you will come home feeling a little lighter and more positive about the future.
Note: Demetra Bottega aims to bring locally sourced products to the center of Florence. Our online shop is a new channel for small producers that don’t have the resources for a distribution channel or retail outlet. Watch this space. As our restaurant is currently closed due to Covid-19 restrictions we look forward to adding to our product range and via the blog introducing you to the work our partners do in the countryside.