Cambridge and Somerville Local First - 2011 Coupon Book - Shift Your Shopping to Local First

Keepin’ It Real: BLFF’s Success at Staying Authentically Local

Sep 14 10:58 am

(Originally posted on the Boston Local Food Festival 2011 blog)

By Danielle Kennedy

You may not realize it, but the local movement is at a critical moment in its development. As buying locally increases in popularity across the country, skeptics want to say it’s simply the next big passing thing in food. This is the point when a movement is in danger of losing its credibility by “selling out,” and that’s what can kill it. Will the buy local movement go the way of so many failed ideologies, and be written off as a mere cultural trend in the history books?


Local certainly doesn't have to small!

Not if the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Boston has anything to say about it! SBN’s Boston Local Food Festival, which is expected to attract as many as 50,000 attendees this year, is back to bring local values to the masses. However, the BLFF doesn’t mainstream it with a watered-down message. Never accepting corporate sponsorship or vendors, BLFF has become huge on the shoulders of only local, independent businesses and organizations. BLFF also ups the sustainable ante by aiming to be a Zero Waste event. I’ve been to “green” events that didn’t even have recycling receptacles!

Events like this are so important to the movement. When you work within a small organization like Somerville Local First, it’s reassuring to go to a big festival and see that our supporters number in the thousands. BLFF is successful at converting new locavores because it truly has something for everybody. At last year’s inaugural celebration, activities ranged from DIY chicken farming to Post Secret-esque community art project Stir a Memory. And with free admission and the sample plates costing a mere $5 at most, BLFF has concocted a great way to introduce the “it’s too expensive” naysayers to local food on the cheap.

How has the BLFF become such a wide-reaching event without giving in to corporate pressure? “It has not been easy, but so far we have managed to do so for our first 2 years,” says Nicola Williams, President of The Williams Agency and producer of BLFF. “The success of the event is also due to partnerships and relationships we have developed with local businesses, local media, and nonprofit partners who share our organization’s values. If we succeed, they succeed.” The key to a strong local economy is the connections made between businesses. When everyone has a stake in the outcome, they will do more to ensure it thrives.


Waste not, Want Local!

For a movement that is working its way from the bottom up in grassroots fashion, it would be so easy to give in and just take the money (and money is hard to come by for us small-scale nonprofits). The fact that a local festival like this one has grown into such a huge event without taking shortcuts shows that people are actually being to realize that our current consumption patterns are just not sustainable.

The media has been touting the local movement as a fad ever since it started to really gain prominence around 2007. But the movement is still going strong. Localism is not a new concept, and it is gaining prominence now because we have come to a point where we HAVE to change our ways. So, amidst the grand ol’ time you’ll inevitably have at BLFF on October 1, remember the festival is also an ample learning opportunity. Spread the knowledge and the fun, and stay local, folks!

Get your foodie self prepared for fall and spend the day at the Boston Local Food Festival on Oct. 1, 11am-5pm. Get your tickets to the craft beer tasting, then sign up as a festival volunteer and do your part for the local movement (or do it for the freebies!).


To Buy Local or Not to Buy Local: Local and The Question of Fair

Aug 29 10:25 am

By Danielle Kennedy


This article is the second in a 2-part series on the argument against buying local. Read the first part here.

Is it fair that the Global South feeds our society before their own?

So often in the Buy Local movement, we hear talk about “food miles,” but what about “fair miles?” The concept of fair miles refers to the idea that our purchasing power significantly affects the developing world. Some consumers argue that we should be supporting farmers in poorer countries as opposed to our own small local farmers. While we absolutely should be conscious of the fragile situations of workers in such countries, we must take that conclusion with a grain of salt.

As I pointed out in Part 1 of this series on sustainability in the local movement, it is impossible to make your purchasing decisions based on a singular factor. Does buying local actually take money away from farmers in developing countries? The answer is yes and no. On one hand, one could argue (and many do) that a paying job, regardless of the treatment of employees, is better than no job. After all, these workers need to feed their families somehow, right? But it is just this kind of thinking that perpetuates the unethical treatment and compensation of workers overseas by big corporations.

Many poor nations were not so poor some years ago. In the pre-globalized economy, long before European imperialism and banana republics, these now “third world” countries once thrived. Although formal colonies are no more, centuries of faulty and self-serving trade practices have culminated in a system in which powerful countries still exploit the developing world by coercing them to grow and export the crops we want them to. Without farmers producing a varied diet to feed the population, it’s no wonder these countries don’t have food security.

The world highest standard of living? At what cost?

It doesn’t make sense that we would encourage the very practices within less fortunate countries that have decimated many of our own small farms. Our own farmers struggle, relying on government subsidies, while we buy crops that we can and do produce here from overseas. Even so, our country is much better off, so we donate our money to feed hungry souls internationally. But as the old saying goes: “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach him to fish, and he’ll eat for the rest of his life.” It is clear that we cannot feed the world through charity alone, and at the rate we are using up farmland with unsustainable farming methods, we won’t even have the option.

The local movement does not limit us to achieving a prosperous, sustainable economy for just our own locality – of course no one would come of any better in the end of that scenario. For a strong local economy here, we must encourage a strong local economy everywhere. Many in the developing world have realized the faults in the system, and instead of subjecting themselves to the whims of multinational conglomerates, they are creating their own chances at a flourishing future and climbing out of poverty. For example, the 1980s microcredit experiment, pioneered by Muhammad Yunus of the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, has allowed countless borrowers to create small local businesses, many in rural communities, that simultaneously address issues of empowerment of the poor, job growth, and creation of previously unavailable services, such as in the health and educational capacities.

When given the opportunity, those stuck in poverty can stimulate their own job creation and attain food security. But developing countries cannot turn themselves around as long as powerful nations continue to keep them down by supporting unethical business practices. We must do away with the fantasy that we are sustaining these countries, when in fact we are causing their demise, as well as that of our own small and local businesses. Instead of taking advantage, we should be encouraging a varied crop output instead of the few that suit our needs. This way, crop rotation can improve soil conditions, and producers who rely on agriculture for their incomes can feed their fellow citizens and still export items with a low regional demand.


Taza Chocolate and La Red Guaconejo signing their first Direct Trade Agreement, May 3,2010 via

Buying local doesn’t necessarily always mean buying goods that were completely produced locally. There are many products that we CAN’T produce here, such as coffee and bananas. But that doesn’t mean we have to go without. There are countless local businesses that you can still support by buying their nonlocal goods. Local sensation Taza Chocolate obviously can’t grow cacao beans in a harsh New England climate. But as a small, independently-run business, Taza better has the means to make sure their ingredients come from an organic, fair trade source, and they can effect sustainable methods like carbon neutral shipping.  A small business like Taza can tell you about the farmers and their practices due to direct relations. Taza knows every inch of the production process because they are involved in each step – making that 70% stone ground dark chocolate bar taste all the more delicious.

In the end, we must understand that we don’t always have the option to buy local and that buying local is one part of a bigger picture. SLF’s mantra is not “Buy local or die” – we encourage you to buy local when you can, when it makes sense. There’s a reason that the issues of organic and fair-trade always seem to enter the conversation about local and cause confusion. It’s because these issues are all interconnected in ways that may not always be immediately apparent. So buy local first. But also buy green, buy healthy, buy fair – and most importantly, buy with a conscience.

To Buy or Not to Buy Local: Local and The Question of Sustainability

Aug 12 3:25 pm

By Danielle Kennedy


This is the first of a two-part article. Click the link to read Part 2 on fair trade.


A More Honest Depiction of Milk's Journey Perhaps

With all of you as our awesome supporters, it’s easy to forget sometimes that not everyone is on board with the local movement. In any movement, it is vital to address both sides of an issue, and with Wal-Mart’s upcoming potential foray into Somerville territory and the community dialogue that has already ensued, I think now is a more important time than ever to address our opposition and consider their points.

Although there are a few different arguments the opposition uses, I’ll start with an environmental focus. This argument mostly focuses around local food systems, and detractors often claim that buying local actually does not cause a significant reduction of our carbon footprint. The idea is that, in terms of transportation, mass production can be efficient because it is easier to transport many products in bulk over a long distance than transporting it with several small trucks over very short distances as is often the case with farmer’s markets, where many small local farmers are individually transporting their goods.

The many trips our food can take before reaching the dinner table

While the statistic they often point to, that “it uses the same amount of fuel to transport 200 dozen eggs 200 miles as it does 20 dozen eggs 20 miles,” may be true, I feel that this write-off of the environmental impact is pretty simplistic.Aside from undergoing this single, long-distance shipment, commercially-produced foods usually go through several smaller trips, travelling through processing and packaging plants before perhaps residing at a distribution center, from which products are carted off to various supermarkets in smaller quantities as needed. Local food sourcers usually only take one trip, from farm to market.

In fact, the entire practice of producing food to prepare for the long journey it must undergo can be said to be the true carbon culprit. In a 2008 article for Conservation Magazine, Natasha Loder suggests that shipping does not account for a significant percentage of carbon emissions involved in food consumption (“83 percent of the average U.S. household’s carbon footprint for food consumption comes from production”), and therefore, buying local for this particular reason is not worth it. However, she fails to see that the entire food production process depends on what type of farm is producing the food. Local farmers do not need to prepare their goods to be shipped long distances and last several days before reaching your kitchen. Without the need for lots of packaging and preserving, the environmental impact is lessened. Small local farms also are more likely to use green organic growing methods because it is more feasible, which means less greenhouse gas-producing fertilizers and devastating monocultures.


Source: Weber, C.L. and Matthews, H.S. 2008. Food-miles and the relative climate impacts of food choices in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology 42(10):3508–3513.

The opposition’s logic also ignores the most important people in any economy – consumers – who are not making their purchases in bulk and may even run up to the store for a single product that they need at a time. Most non-local groceries end up in supermarkets and big box stores, which, because of the amount of space they require, tend to be built far away from where people live. Consumers are more likely to drive to such locations, as they are more difficult to get to by public transportation and compel people to buy more at once (more than they can carry by foot or cart) because of the distance. When food or other products are made available locally, people are more likely and able to use alternative forms of transportation to get to those stores, equaling less individual carbon-producing car trips.

Many people against buying local also argue that the effort it takes to grow certain foods in local locations outweighs any benefit that the decreased food miles might have. In a June op-ed article written for the Globe, author Ed Glaeser cites a recent UK report that found the process involved in producing local tomatoes in England emitted about three times as many greenhouse gases as importing Spanish tomatoes.

This may seem like a sound argument at first, but one must realize that a key part of authentically eating locally means eating seasonally. If you live in Massachusetts and buy tomatoes in May or June before the peak of the season in July, you must do so with the knowledge that they were either grown in an energy-expensive greenhouse or aren’t from Massachusetts.


Click to enlarge and learn a little more about food miles for different modes of transport.

Now, I may have just spent the last several hundred words arguing against the opposition, but every argument has its reason. So when they use the, “it uses the same amount of fuel…” line, the most powerful argument you can make is to actually DO something about it – that’s what movements are for, anyway. Vanessa Rule of Somerville Climate Action and New England Climate Summer says, “Buying local, in keeping dollars in the local economy, allows local producers to develop business relationships with each other, which also decreases miles of product travel. One business’s waste can become another’s resource.” Take a hint from Vanessa - organize your local farms into a produce “carpool” program, because while driving 20 dozen eggs 20 miles might not be ideal, it’s certainly more efficient to transport 200 dozen eggs the same distance. Encourage local businesses to use greener transportation methods, and don’t give the opposition anything to argue about.

Unfortunately, sustainability is not the only issue we must defend here…keep an eye out for Part 2 of this article, and in the meantime, comment below – do you agree or disagree?

Green Line Extension Delayed Again, Somervillians Voice Disappointment

Aug 04 4:09 pm

By Danielle Kennedy

The Green Line Extension project has been pushed back yet again, and Somerville commuters are not happy, to say the least. The project was already reslated for 2015 last year, much to chagrin of residents in Somerville neighborhoods that would hugely benefit from a T stop.

Is it 2014 yet? No, but looks like you'll have to wait even longer.

Now projecting stations will go into service 2018 at the earliest but possibly as late as 2020, MassDOT chalks up this most recent delay to a decision to acquire most of the necessary land and permits before allowing companies to bid on the building and design rights, which they say could have prevented expensive delays in the reopening of the Greenbush Commuter Rail line. Marc Draisen, executive director of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, told the Boston Globe that while MassDOT’s reasoning is valid, he also suspects the department’s ongoing financial issues, stating about better transportation offerings, “…People want these things, but if you want ‘em you have to pay for ‘em.”

Regardless of whether or not the state has the funding for this project to go forward, many residents are upset that aside from the vague promises, there has been nothing concrete offered to prove that this project is underway. Mayor Curtatone is one of these outraged residents, calling for Somerville inhabitants and business owners alike to demand accountability from all those involved in the process in a letter/phone/email campaign on the Resistat blog Tuesday. The mayor proclaimed, “A four-year delay of the Green Line Extension bereft of any tangible commitments from the Commonwealth is simply unacceptable. Somerville deserves a transparent, accurate timeline for the [project], with clear deliverables.” An online petition that went up the same day already has nearly 1000 signatures at the time of this post, with signers citing complaints from skyrocketing rents in promised T stop locations and suppressed neighborhood development to underfunding and broken legal promises.

Will a station in Brickbottom and other underserviced Somerville neighborhoods ever become a reality?

This delay prefaces what could be a frightening trend in greener transportation initiatives state and nationwide. The Green Line Extension was conceived in conjunction with the Big Dig in order to fulfill the tenets of the federal Clean Air Act and avoid a costly lawsuit from the Conservation Law Foundation. Obviously, these kinds of projects cost money, funds that state programs just don’t have right now in our current economic condition. However, this puts us in a catch-22, because the longer MassDOT waits to build, the more expensive the extension will become, and additional money will still have to be spent on Big Dig pollution-offset projects to comply with the original CLF settlement deadline in 2014.

In reference to court support his nonprofit has received for the Green Line extension and other air quality-improving projects across New England, CLF attorney Raphael Mares has said, “I think underlying all of this is an attempt to address the fact that we’re underfunding transportation in general.” Anonymous signer #274 in the aforementioned petition sums up this failure of accountability perfectly: “What good is a legal mandate if it can simply be ignored?”

The state, MassDOT, and the impacted community have all had their say, so what do you, as SLFers, think? How will another delay impact the growth of local businesses and burgeoning Somerville neighborhoods? We’d love to hear what you have to say, so please write in the comments section below.


Read more:

Danielle Kennedy

Jul 26 4:35 pm

Danielle Kennedy

Interim blog editor Danielle is a Linguistics and Psychology major at Northeastern University. She is a huge nerd about it, so don’t start her talking about it. Danielle has her hands in many other local nonprofits, including Peer Health Exchange, during which time she taught health classes to ninth graders in schools without a health program in the Boston area, and MassVOTE, an organization that strives to register voters in underrepresented communities in Massachusetts. Now, as the Web & Editorial Intern at SLF, Danielle is excited that there is a forum that has to publish her various musings.

Filed under: Blogger Bio

Fabricado en Somerville: My Introduction into Somerville’s Homegrown Movement

Jul 20 5:02 pm

- Danielle Kennedy, Web & Editorial Intern

When I was a kid, I had a love affair with Spain. I had one of those brief childhood fascinations with growing up to be something very specific and peculiar – in my case, a flamenco dancer (which I consider at least somewhat more practical than my younger brother’s aspiration to become a penguin at the time). I loved everything about them – the swirling, ruffled dresses, the elaborate hair ornaments. Most of all, I loved the beautiful, handcrafted wooden fans brandished so elegantly by the female performers. So when I learned of my grandparents’ upcoming trip to Europe, which included a sojourn to my beloved Spain, I naturally insisted that I HAD to have a Spanish fan and I’d never want for anything again (until my next phase, of course).

The source of all the trouble...and a new realization

The source of all the trouble...and a new realization

Imagine my dismay, after receiving my long-awaited treasure, I noticed the small etched lettering on the glossy wooden panel: FABRICADO EN TAIWAN. I had seen enough “made in…” labels on other products to know that this meant my fan was, in fact, not Spanish. My juvenile way of handling this betrayal was to subject my grandparents’ to the dreaded silent treatment for the better part of a week, much to the chagrin of my mother. All things were eventually forgotten, of course, as grandparents possess that special quality, otherwise found only in puppies, that prevents you from staying mad at them for long.

Amusing though this anecdote may be, I bring it up because I consider this incident my first brush with the concept that it actually mattered where my where my belongings came from. Since I had no purchasing power at that age, the significance didn’t resonate with me as much until later, but still, the seeds were sown. What does it mean when a region outsources production of its signature goods? The idea really began to sink in when I was old enough to discover what more the city had to offer over the tired chains in the shopping malls where I loitered in my youth, and even more so when I moved to the Boston area to live on my own for school. Becoming part of this community – living here, working here, making friends here – has inevitably made me increasingly invested in its wellbeing. I support the initiative to buy local because I want my community to thrive as a distinctive location with quality goods and services to offer my fellow residents.

This kid knows what to do!

This kid knows what to do!

As the new Web & Editorial Intern for SLF, I am so thrilled to have the chance to be able to help Somerville work toward these goals while indulging my other love, writing. During my time with SLF, I will be managing content for our blog and social media. Believe me, I have a whole lot of opinions and a whole lot to say about them. But I don’t want my job to be only about what I have to say – I want to hear all of your opinions! So, dear readers, I implore you to speak up: post in the comments section about what you would like to see covered in the blog over the next six months or message me through the SLF Facebook page or Twitter. This is your chance to be a part of our blog and to contribute your ideas!

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