To buy Local, buy from the Maker — if you can

That “Buy Local” cry is getting louder.

Have you noticed it? Its frequency is intensifying, and it’s easier to catch the vibe and hold onto it here in Hawai‘i, a sort of “don’t worry, it’s good for you” kind of infusion. I’ll bet it’s happening wherever you live too.

You catch onto it as the slogan which encourages us to support our local communities, for we all want to be more homegrown and self sufficient, right? We’ve stopped saying that the chain gangs and big box retailers we have here now are evil, for they do provide people with jobs, but truth is that we simply tolerate them. We try to stay away, but we do sneak into their doors when something shiny and new beckons, when our budgets are tight, or if we’re honest, we come right out and admit we’re cheap, glossing the statement over with a sheepish chuckle as we change the subject.

I recall this passage:

In town, too, Ed and I are beginning to feel more at home. We try to buy everything right in the local shops: hardware, electrical transformers, contact lens cleaner, mosquito candles, film. We do not patronize the cheaper supermarket in Camucia; we go from the bread store to the fruit and vegetable shop, to the butcher, loading everything into our blue canvas shopping bags. Maria Rita starts to go in back of her shop and bring out the just-picked lettuces, the choice fruit. “Oh, pay me tomorrow,” she says if we only have large bills. In the post office, our letters are affixed with several stamps by the postmistress then individually hand-canceled with vengeance, whack, whack, “Buon giorno, signori.” At the crowded little grocery store, I count thirty-seven kinds of dried pasta and, on the counter, fresh gnocchi, pici, thick pasta in long strands, fettuccine and two kinds of ravioli. By now they know what kind of bread we want, that we want the bufala, buffalo milk mozzarella, not the normale, regular cow’s milk kind.
~ Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun

So it’s not a new refrain at all. Just a constant one, still to be celebrated when, and if we can achieve it.

“Buy Local” works as a heartstring puller because we really do yearn for more nobility. We want to know that we can provide for ourselves and satisfy all our own needs — or at least the ones which are about our basic sustenance. We want to be good citizens. We want to be healthy, consuming basic, and staying away from the processed and preserved.

And we tell ourselves that our smaller local businesses aren’t middlemen who sell imports and imposters: They’re the makers.

But is that really true?

I find I’m thinking about this more and more, because I still insist, to whoever will listen to my soapboxing about it, that Alaka‘i Managers matter in the workplace. They matter because they help people do worthwhile work that grows them.

So how much of that work is about making something?

How would you describe what you make, exactly?
At what precise detail?
And that which you make, whatever it may be, is your local quality and quantity enough for your community?

Maker’s Mark

We often ask each other, “What do you contribute?” because we’ve long been in this Age of the Knowledge Worker, and we recognize that ideas and other ‘intangible deliveries’ are products and are considered consumables too.

What if we tweaked the conversation slightly, to “What do you make?”

And what if we said that Alaka‘i Managers grow the makers?

I wonder what would change.
At the very least, I think the conversation as we work could change.