Living la vida local: how buying local creates connections and community

A pre-Christmas market haul

As a freelance writer and part-time bartender, Saturdays are possibly my favourite day of the week. It’s not like I actually get the day off, per say, but I can usually push off most work-life todos in favour of spending a stretch of time focused on me and the teen.

But, since the lad was at his dad’s — as is the case on alternating weeks — it meant this Saturday was, at least in theory, all about me. And this time of year if I’m not off on a hike, laying in my hammock, or getting sun-kissed at the beach, one of my favourite Saturday activities is perusing local markets and exploring different neighbourhoods in search of fresh food, local goods, and community.

Let me be real here. As someone who works from home I can go days without seeing anyone but my reflection in the mirror — especially during weeks the boy spends at his other house — working from home can be hella lonely! Part of the reason I sling beer is to make certain I leave the house at least twice each week — although tips and a solid discount on delicious brews make it an all-around winning gig, really.

Me, at the pub, stoked to be around people

Which brings me back to my Saturdays spent choosing from the bounty of local produce in farm market stalls after chatting with growers about their season’s harvest. Grabbing a coffee from my local roaster, taking my bike for a tune-up at the new neighbourhood bike shop and stopping to talk bike lanes and brakes with the owner. Chowing down on local cheese and wine at a neighbourhood resto, or enjoying a few hoppy beers at my favourite watering hole while getting into the day’s politics with my server or barkeep. Saturdays are often the pinnacle of my week.

But there are other fantastic reasons to choose to spend money locally and they are completely unrelated to my hope of conversation with someone other than the cat. It’s not why I started shopping local, but now the most important reason (to me) is locally made or grown goods are better environmentally — they don’t have to travel as far to get to my door, which helps lower my carbon footprint. And the boon to the local economy is a pretty big positive too.

And, yes, for me it’s also a treat to be able to wax poetic with my farmer about their fiddleheads and fungus, query my butcher about a particular cut of beef, or chat with my barista about bean varieties and upcoming concerts we’re planning to see while being refuelled with caffeine. It’s a pleasure to be building relationships with my bike mechanic, my servers, and all those in between. It makes living in a small city like Halifax, Nova Scotia, an even lovelier thing.

And we can all use more lovely, I think.

Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based freelance writer, bartender, and editor of the Whole Family Happiness Project. She lives in Halifax, with her son and a penchant for really strong tea, yoga, hammocks, and hoppy beer.


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