Originally posted in the Monadnock Shopper News
Back in 2010, fifteen business owners and community members gathered at Elm City Restaurant to mark the one-year anniversary of Monadnock Buy Local. Together we wrote our collective vision for the Monadnock Region’s local economy. Specifically, we envisioned what our region would look like in 2015. Well, it’s just about 2015 — the perfect time to revisit our ambitious vision.
Welcome to the Monadnock Region’s Local Economy in 2015:
Walk or bike downtown, whether in Antrim or Windsor, and experience a vibrant & diverse business district with a unique cultural flavor. Note each town’s gathering point, attracting both visitors and residents.
Stop and ask people how they support their community. You hear, “One way I support my community is to buy local first – it keeps money circulating in our local economy.” No longer seen as a fringe movement or just a luxury for some, citizens understand the power of their choices as consumers and investors.
And their support for local runs deep — citizens bank locally, financing their home locally and support local arts and non-profits with their time and dollars. Some individuals work together to form cooperatives in multiple business sectors and others are developing a local alternative currency called Monadbucks.
Each town has ample access to local food — you find local food in grocery stores, farmers’ markets and CSA (Community Support Agriculture) Farms.
Leaders and public officials understand the importance of their local economy and independent businesses. They create policies that encourage independent businesses to grow and thrive. Each town offers support and training for new and existing businesses — increasing the opportunity for people of all ages to start their own business. Business owners, in turn, understand their role in creating a strong local economy and purchase many of their supplies and services from other local business owners.
Each town in the Monadnock Region understands it is part of something larger — a “glocal” movement — and we are excited to see where our new economy takes us.
So, where in this vision above have we reached fruition and where have we fallen short?
We are seeing more people thinking “local first” – both in our region and nationwide. According to one study, 79% of Americans planned to shop at local businesses this holiday season. Each January, the Institute for Local Self Reliance surveys locally owned businesses across the United States to assess sales growth over the previous year. The results of this study will show if American’s plan to shop local this year translated into real action. Please stay tuned!
In terms of Monadbucks: While there’s interest, there isn’t yet any local currency in circulation in our region. There is, however, the Monadnock Time Exchange, a cooperative network helping community members match unmet needs with untapped resources. For every hour you do something needed by another member of the time exchange, you “earn” a time credit that you can “spend” to receive a free service offered by another participant in the time exchange.
Access to local food seems to have grown with the addition of the Monadnock Food Co-op, as well as year-round CSAs and expanded farmers’ markets. We hope that more research will be done to truly measure access to local food in our region and throughout New England. Until then, we can look to the Strolling of the Heifers’ Locavore Index for insight. It looks at four measures: the number of farmers’ markets, the number of CSAs, the number of food hubs — on a per-capita basis — along with the percentage active Farm-to-School programs. According to the index, New Hampshire is ranked #3 – behind Vermont and Maine in terms of local food access.
We still have much work to do to encourage municipalities to adopt pro-local policies and help more businesses buy from other locally owned businesses. This needs to be a focus over our next five years of work and beyond.
What’s on Monadnock Buy Local’s plate for 2015? We plan to elevate our capacity to accomplish more by hiring staff, increase our membership from 150 to 200 independent businesses and implement an evaluation tool that measures how businesses are supporting a local, green and fair economy — as well as other projects.
While we’re not there yet — in terms of seeing our entire vision for a Monadnock Local Living Economy come to life — we are making progress. So, perhaps we don’t need to revise the vision above — but simply change the date from 2015 to 2020.
Thank you for supporting Monadnock Buy Local and our local economy these past five years by taking the Shift Your Shopping pledge, participating in Plaid Friday and supporting locally owned businesses. Here’s to a wonderful 2015!