Quick! Local Food.

As a small business owner my family directly feels the impact of your buying decisions. When you choose a product made by a family business there is a real family that feels that purchase.  I believe that it is almost always a conscious decision that leads customers to pass up the big brands (or the CAP sales) and choose a product that is made by a small or local producer.


When it comes to our family's food we garden, join a local CSA farm, gather wild foods, hunt and fish, buy directly from local farmers, and find the rest of our food at the farmer's market and the coop. At the coop we hardly venture into the center isles. We rarely see a need for packaged foods. It's just not how we eat.

Well, its not how we usually eat anyway.

Yesterday we had a busy day and no meal plan. A Crisis Dinner if you will. I dashed to the coop to pick up something (anything!) to eat and came home with an amazingly local dinner. A local pizza crust. Regional pizza sauce. Local cheese, spinach, and asparagus. Even regional beer.


What was interesting to me was how conscious the purchase of this meal was. I put back the zucchini (from Mexico) that I wanted when I saw the asparagus (from six miles away). I chose a different sauce and beer than my first inclination when I started thinking about the miles those products had traveled to my coop. I questioned the disappearance of the local pepperoni we have bought in the past and mentioned that I'd like it stocked again to a manager. 


Edited: Thanks for the link to the newest chart. I replaced the older version above with the new one.

What it really came down to was my conscious decision to be awake in my purchasing even though I was in a hurry. Even though for us this was fast food. It was my decision to be present to the reality that Muir Glen is owned by General Mills but Eden Foods is a small family owned business and DiSalvo's, the sauce I bought last night, is a family-owned Wisconsin company.

Unless you live in a town with a vibrant local food economy, you might not feel like you have choices as great as these. The document above can help you make better choices with your food budget. Created by the Cornucopia Institute, I believe this chart should hand on the wall of every coop and natural foods store. (I requested it at my coop but was told that it was "too depressing.") 


Photo 238

This chart lets you know what corporations own which food brands so that you can choose consciously. The same goes for body care and other products, but there isn't a chart to guide your buying decisions. Your best bet is to do your homework and choose local when you can. Relevant examples for body care are that Colgate owns Tom's of Maine and Clorox owns Burt's Bees but I own LuSa Organics (see photo above, taken 30 seconds ago without even brushing my hair.)

I am a real person, not a corporation.

I care about your kids, your community, and our planet. 

We speak our values with our dollars. Its just that sometimes we forget.

40 thoughts on “Quick! Local Food.

  1. Kara @SimpleKids says:

    Can you see me standing up in my home applauding you? Fantastic post!

    I can see that I need to be taking a closer look at the faces behind my products … thank you for this reminder and that eye-opening chart!

    You rock, mama!

  2. Rachel Wolf says:

    (Smiling!) Thanks, Kara. Glad the post is resonant for you. The chart is AMAZING and always makes my brain ache a little. I want to print one out and carry it in my shopping bag. Ooh! Or an iron-on of it ON my shopping bag! Awesome.

  3. Emmy says:

    So true! What a wonderful difference just a few conscious decisions can make. I’m far from perfect at this – but I sure do try my hardest.

  4. Rachel Wolf says:

    As long as your choices are conscious its a step in the right direction. Its about moving along the continuum line in a direction that feels good, inch by inch. Blessings, Rachel

  5. denise says:

    That is EXACTLY why we live where we do…we can buy SO MUCH directly from local farmers and producers. 🙂 Very important to us, and how we live as a family.

    I imagined and dreamed for so long when that farm was for sale (your pizza crust) … trying to figure out how we could buy it, live there, do that. Some day. 🙂

  6. Kim V. says:

    That chart IS depressing! But very informative and I’m glad you posted it. I do forget that what I buy counts, but this has helped me remember to be a more conscious consumer. Thanks!

  7. Cassandra says:

    That chart was very interesting…I buy the Nature’s Best baby food for when we are on the road. I had no idea that they were owned by Heinz…wow! My mom was a small business owner, so I know what you mean when you say that the choices people make when shopping can have a big impact on the small business owner. I am sending good vibes for big sales to you!

  8. Denise says:

    Ohmigosh, I second the *LOVE* of your iron on shopping bag idea!! Since the coop won’t hang the poster up, we could make up a bunch of those bags and hang them up with the other donated cloth shopping bags for folks : )

  9. caitlin says:

    excellent post, and an way of living that I am trying to delve more into this year. We try to buy all of our household-ish needs locally too (the local nursery for a tree vs. Fred Meyer, Jim and Sons Repair Man instead of Sears. etc.) I feel very passionate about supporting the little guys.
    And I had NO idea that Clorox owned Burt’s Bees?!?! Hmm…something to pass along for sure.

  10. Kate says:

    Thanks for such a great thoughtful post, it is about trying harder and thinking about all your purchases, I tend to focus so much on food that I allow my self to falter on the rest, thanks for the inspiration.

  11. Kristen- Marinade Handmade says:

    Wow! What a great post! It really puts a lot of things into perspective and makes me want to be more proactive about asking my local coop to stop carrying certain brands and carry more of others that are family owned companies. Our local co-op is really small, and often only carried one brand of tomato sauce or cheese. Making small changes can really impact how our local conscious eaters are shopping. I had no idea so many of my favorite brands were owned by large corporations…this was so enlightening! Thanks!

  12. Gina says:

    Wow! Thanks for that. You know, I have a hard time putting it into perspective for my young consumers but that last line in your paragraph there, really rings true. We’re displaced Pennsylvanians living in Virginia,trying to find our way local again in our new surroundings. No easy task, or maybe it’s just that we were so comfortable with all of our old arrangements. But your post helps with the “Why bother?” question.
    Talking myself in to having some LuSa goodness shipped down here. 😉
    Thanks again!

  13. Rachel Wolf says:

    Caitlin, Yes, that was a big one for me as Burts was (in my viewpoint) a positive business model. Just another great reminder to do your homework!


  14. Rachel Wolf says:

    In that regard, I think small coops have more power. They have to choose – this brand or that one. If the management has the right spirit it can be a positive experience. There are coops I have visited that sell Cheerios. Its up to the management and the buyers to stock with the best products.


  15. Rachel Wolf says:

    Perhaps thats part of the adventure of finding your way in a new home. What is local there? What is out in the woods? What is at the market? Whos your new farmer?

    And as for that order, were ready when you are! 🙂


  16. Susanne says:

    I think I just died a little inside knowing that Burts Bees is owned by Clorox. It makes me think of rubbing bleach on myself. In other news – I’m about to start my foray into bread baking! What do you store your dough in? Tupperware? Should I invest in a huge container? There are three of us in our house now that my father has died and I’m thinking of baking bread once a week for now. Lastly – how shall I send the Sandor Katz article to you? Snail mail or email?

  17. Rachel Wolf says:

    Your Burts comment made me chuckle. Its kind of like that, but, well, not. But I get it – totally.

    As for bread, I use a stainless steel mixing bowl with a plate perched on top for my dough. I am more comfortable with that than plastic, but go with what works for you. My technique is not air tight  so the dough sometimes drys around the edge (when it does I just tuck in inside if it isnt really dry. If this would be more annoying than the mysteries of plastic then go for the tupperware. Email would work great as would snail. Its your call. Thanks so much!


  18. Peggy says:

    I’d buy one of those canvas grocery bags with the “Who Owns Organic” chart printed on it (and I’d buy one for everyone I know, too…) Count me in!

  19. Susan says:

    Great post! I must say that I received my first LuSa order a few days ago, and the lip balm is so much better than the Burt’s Bees I’ve been using for years. I think I’m hooked. This post makes me feel good about the tough decisions I have made in the past and reminds me of the many ways in which I can still improve. Thanks!

  20. Susan says:

    Thought I submitted a comment, but guess I forgot to hit the final button or something… Anyway, I just got my first LuSa order the other day, and I love, love, love the lip balm. Bye-bye, Burt’s Bees! Thanks for this post – you have an excellent way of making me feel good for the slow progress I’ve made while giving a little nudge to press forward 🙂

  21. Jody says:

    Thanks so much for this reminder and inspiration. My determination to buy local ebbs and flows as doing so is not an easy task where “farmers” only grow 2 things and both are unfit for human consumption. (and no one seems to care!)

  22. renee @ FIMBY says:

    after your ramp post with the mention of all the comments I thought I should come and check out the chart. Very eye opening. We buy very few processed goods which virtually eliminates brands.

  23. Amy says:

    Just to let you know, that food companies change ownership faster than people change their underwear, and the chart is from 2009, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s different ownerships now and maybe even that mom and pop food supplier is now owned by a big corp. Also, if you’re truely into organic foods, many that say they’re organic are not truely organic or a very small portion is organic. Its like foods that are labeled “something from Wisconsin”. It could be a food from another country, but is repackaged in Wisconsin, and it can still carry the Something from Wisconsin” label.

  24. Rachel Wolf says:

    Yes they do. That is a huge bit of the problem, isnt it? The chart was the most current at the time the post was written, in spring 2010. I have not seen an updated one since.

    With regard to labels, this speaks of why buying local is so critical. And buying whole vs processed foods.

    All the best,
    ~ Rachel

  25. Martin Family says:

    thanks for the chart! we are a family business too and you are totally on it – family businsses definately have the community more in mind, because if we arent pleasing them with a good product, we cant survive! also, with folks like you that blog, it offers much more transparency about your intentions and business sense. it shows the sincereity involved in your product. thumbs up!

  26. Valarie Budayr says:

    I love family businesses. I have one and I come from a family who had multiple businesses at the same time. For the last 4 years I’ve bought local as much as possible. The effect of a farmer’s market starting just three years ago has led to the opening of a local organic market. I have a huge garden. These changes have brought a wonderful rhythm not just to our home but to our community as well. Love this post Rachel. Thanks so much.

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