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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-direct-trade

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

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.

milk-travel-path

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.

ghg-emissions-food-consumption-chart

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.

food-miles-transportation-modes

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?

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!

How to Throw a Wedding Somerville Style

Apr 05 12:40 pm

By Megan Amundson

Reception at Precinct

When you think about your special day, you may imagine a wedding ceremony on the beach. Or in the mountains. Or maybe at a country club. Have you thought about a local wedding? There are plenty of businesses in Somerville more than happy to make your wedding day special, and they shouldn’t be overlooked.

Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.

Your life isn’t an 80s sitcom, but sharing your special day with businesses you already know provides security. You know they’re good and they know you’re a repeat customer. They want to make you happy! When my husband and I got married in Somerville at the end of February, we worked with a number of local businesses. And in return, those Somerville businesses did everything they could to make our day special.

 

Getting Married in Somerville

Our goal was an intimate, low key wedding with a larger reception to celebrate. For the day to be meaningful to us, we hosted our wedding in the ‘Ville with local businesses we like so our family and friends too could experience our Somerville community and all it has to offer.

The Night Before

The festivities began Friday night with a dinner at the Foundry on Elm for 16 of our guests traveling from out of town and our families. We had made a last minute change to the Foundry after frustrating dealings with a restaurant  in Cambridge that caused us to cut our losses and relocate back to Somerville. We couldn’t have made a better decision.

Dinner at Bergamot

The Foundry squeezed 16 of us in with only three days. As great as the food was, given the circumstances of how we ended up at there, what I remember most was the attentive service. They dedicated at least three wait staff to our table, including the manager, were exceptionally responsive considering we were there at the busiest time of the week, and we never felt rushed. The staff made helpful recommendations for wine and starters that made everyone happy and ordering for 16 stress free. In the end, they made it possible for us to focus our attention on our families meeting for the first time.

Our Wedding Day

We started our wedding day by getting our home ready for the ceremony in our living room. Bow Street Flowers on Beacon Street outdid themselves with three large bouquets that we used to frame the ceremony and the formal pictures in our bow window. In my conversations with Shelley at Bow Street, I provided her with an idea of what I was looking for with the hopes they she could translate it into something beautiful, and we weren’t disappointed. She even provided a bouquet, which I hadn’t ordered, as a personal touch. For our toasts after the ceremony, we drank champagne from the Wine and Cheese Cask, which is always a favorite in our household.

From the ceremony, the wedding party walked to Bergamot for a wonderful meal. The staff went out of their way to make the meal special, including a customized print menu and multiple servers working the table. The owner and the head chef had sat down with us in advance to accommodate food allergies and plan a three course meal that had all of our guests raving. The duck in particular was talked about for the rest of the evening.

Bow Street Flowers

From our dinner we moved on to Precinct in Union Square for a larger reception in the back room. A new chef had just been hired a month before our reception, and under his guidance our appetizer order became much more interesting and tasty. In addition, the walls had been recently painted and new furniture had just been ordered. Ronan, the general manager, had worked with us for weeks to make sure the room looked just how we wanted, with candles and flower petals on tables and a special place for the cake and DJ on stage. The staff did an excellent job navigating the very full room with wine, champagne, appetizers, and cake. They went so far as to provide a basket for cards, which we had forgotten to set up, along with a staff person to watch the entrance. Ronan did a fantastic job thinking of all the things we hadn’t.

 

Looking Back

Our wedding day lasted only one magical day, but the relationships we developed with local Somerville business owners will last much longer. I appreciate the hard work they put into making our wedding day special, and they can count on my business in the future.

Photos: Leise Jones Photography

Somerville Local First: Not Your Average Internship

Mar 30 3:17 pm

by Katie Riedman

From Northeastern University to the streets of Somerville

From Northeastern University to the streets of Somerville

Spring has finally arrived—despite the occasional snow flurry—and that means several things for all the Northeastern University students in the Greater Boston Area. First, it means spring semester will be over in one month (until we go back to summer school)! Second, a good majority of us are spending more time stressing out over our March Madness Brackets than exams and homework. And lastly, it means interview time for the Fall Cycle of Northeastern Co-ops. As I am currently on co-op, only one of these three things is applicable to me—March Madness Bracket— but I’m here to offer a little supportive advice to all the prospective co-ops out there.

I remember shifting through endless pages on the Northeastern co-op website, finding the perfect internship only realize it was for work study only or secretly in Santa Monica, California. Yes, it is true that finding a co-op that screams your name is hard to come by, but I’m here to give you one piece of advice: during your internship search, don’t discount part-time unpaid positions. I know what you’re thinking; my parents won’t pay for my Netflix account while I’m on co-op so I need to make some income. Well I have a solution: put down the remote and tighten that money belt because the amount of real life hands on learning you can gain from a co-op such as the Marketing Intern Position at Somerville Local First is much more valuable than being able to watch all six seasons of Lost.

SLF - Not your Average Internship

SLF - Not your Average Internship

The three co-op/internship positions SLF is offering for the Fall 2011 co-op cycle will be sure to challenge your perception of what a job should be like. The unique unstructured nature of this co-op encourages you to make it your own by setting learning objectives and closely working with Joe Grafton to learn and be involved with things that interest you. Rather than watching the clock count down till 5, you will be involved to something you’re passionate about. For example, my first day at SLF, Joe asked me to prepare five goals I would like to achieve by the end of my internship. One of them was to learn more about blogging and how it is an effective marketing strategy. Well here I am writing my second blog. Additionally, through this co-op, I’ve been able to develop my own work style, contribute to projects that I’m proud to call my own, and get invaluable hands on experience that no pay check could replace.

So as you’re applying, keep this in the back of your mind and think about what you’d like to gain from your internship. And if you feel like a position with Somerville Local First is calling out your name, find the co-op listings and more information on the Northeastern co-op website or apply by sending your resume and cover letter to Joe Grafton at [email protected]

Eating at Home in Somerville

Feb 16 10:48 am

Bagels at True Grounds

Winter blues getting to you leaving you too down to cook, but short on cash? Check out Community blogger Abbe Cohen Dvornik’s ways to “eat out” without actually “eating out” Somerville style. It just might be what the doctor ordered:

With snow, slush and cold — and a new baby — complicating family trips to a local restaurant, we’re eating at home a lot. Most of the time, this works great for me, since I discovered some time ago that cooking is one of the things that keeps me sane. But even a person who loves to cook can use a break, and that break isn’t always for dinnertime pizza delivery.  We bring all sorts of things home from Somerville restaurants to add to the variety in our meals.

Recently I found some smoked whitefish in the fish section at Market Basket and it ignited a small craving for a bagel with whitefish salad, so I brought it home.  It was easy enough to figure out how to turn it into whitefish salad (mash the fish up with a mix of mayonnaise and sour cream – or Greek yogurt in a pinch) but I wasn’t about to start making bagels from scratch, and I don’t love supermarket bagels.

Fortunately, we live right around the corner from True Grounds, who in addition to their great coffee, offers all kinds of delicious toppings on tasty bagel (theirs come from Bagel Land in Winchester.)  But if you want to stay home, like I did,  maybe you can send out an obliging family member to bring some fresh bagels straight to your dining room table to be topped with the delicious things in your own fridge. Also, if you happen to get lucky, their day old bagels are one of the best bagel bargains in Somerville at $2 for a half a dozen.

Our favorite winter items at Wang’s come delivered right to our door – check out the “soup noodle” section on the back of the menu.  We usual order Peking Meat Sauce Noodles or Da Lu Noodles, but they’re all interesting.   You get a quart of soup with tasty seasonings and plenty of thick rice noodles. One order is easily a meal for two, leaving room for your favorite appetizer.

For sandwiches, there are times we like to get takeout from any of Somerville’s sub shops, and times that we make PB&J or bologna sandwiches at home. But when I get bored of making the same old sandwiches at home,  Sessa’s in Davis Square will slice me up some nice Italian cold cuts – different kinds of salami, capicola, proscuitto, and more. Pair it with some good bread (also available at Sessa’s), a jar of pickles, cheese, and onions and you can have a classic Italian sub at home in less than the time it takes you to call for delivery.

The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Somerville Local First, its board or staff.

Calling all Somerville Business Owners: What are we here for, anyway?

Feb 15 11:47 am

by Henry Patterson, SLF Board Member

As a member of the SLF Board of Directors, I have recently taken on the Business Owners Membership Chair. My instinct to grow membership is to create an exciting new SLF program that would entice non-members to join. I have been asking myself, and others around me: “What the hell are we here for, anyway?”

Neighborhood Networking Chapters in SLFs Future?

Neighborhood Networking Chapters in SLFs Future?

SLF is about staying local. Perhaps, when thinking about what a new program would look like we should get even MORE local? There are nineteen identified neighborhoods in Somerville. 19! I believe the businesses in those neighborhoods could reap some serious benefits from networking with their immediate business neighbors.

We could foster “chapters” of SLF which are neighborhood based. Since I am rooted in the restaurant business (for the last 35 years anyway) my idea is to recruit the restaurants to become the chapter clubhouses. I envision the restaurants in a neighborhood each hosting 1-2 monthly meetings per year.

The business owners would convene at 11:00am on, say, the first Wednesday of the month, with a simple agenda of each attendee taking one minute to inform the group about his or her business mission and goals – in other words, practice the proverbial “elevator speech” – and then have a simple soup and sandwich lunch.

These meetings would be open only to SLF members in that neighborhood, so interested qualifying non-members would have to join SLF to participate. (That’s my simple membership growth strategy.)

I expect it wouldn’t be long before the chapter members cook up plans for a neighborhood logo, neighborhood events, cross promotions or other ways to help each other realize their goals.

And since I am rooted in Union Square (the same 35 years) my obvious next step is to try to prove this concept in Union Square. Anyone who like to would like to help create the Union Square SLF Chapter, please email me.

Henry Patterson is an SLF Board Member and, as a Union Square landlord, only works with local independent businesses. He has founded and operated and consulted with successful restaurants for over 30 years. Currently he is focused on the financial management and growth of several restaurants, including, in Somerville, Ronnarong Thai Tapas Bar. He lives in Concord with his wife Claudine.

An Organic Debate: The Weight of Our Food Choices

Feb 09 10:23 am

(Editors Note: Recently the USDA approved a plan to allow Monsanto to introduce Genetically Modified crops engineered to work better with their Round Up Product.  The Natural Foods and Organic communities have been buzzing ever since.  Cambridge Local First Executive Committee Member and Co-Founder of Cambridge Naturals, Michael Kanter, wrote in an email to me and some others:

“Our health and welfare and that of our future generations depends on conscientious people who care deeply for what it means to be “natural.”  And how “natural” is genetic modification of seeds with toxic chemicals? To that regard we support the work of the Organic Consumers Association and their challenge to businesses that seek to control the future of our agricultural production and ultimately our health and well being.”

Our post today is from a SLF member, mother and locavore Renee Thomas Scott, who is trying to organize community support for a change of plans.  If you run a business or would like to get involved, her contact info is below ~jG)

By Renee Thomas Scott

Originally posted on Cooking the Seasons, a Somerville food blog. Renée is looking for local stores that are willing to have a petition up. If you are interested, please email her at [email protected]

We began this blog two and a half years ago with the idea that we wanted to make our small impact on the world, or rather, NOT make an impact on the world, by supporting local agriculture, growing some our own food, and making a concerted effort to be more aware of what we ate, where it came from, how it was produced, how it lived.

Now we are faced with a crisis that is forcing us to fully acknowledge all aspects of our food: Monsanto is successfully attempting to introduce a Round-up resistant alfalfa seed; has already introduced “suicide seeds” whose plants are unable to produce viable seeds of their own, preventing seed collection, which has allowed the human species to survive for thousands of years; farmers are being strong-armed into buying from Monsanto; those that attempt to go it alone will have their fields compromised by genetically engineered seeds, eliminating organic and heirloom and all other non-Monsanto crops from remaining pure; and to top it all off, we have no labeling legislation to inform the public when they are buying food that does contain genetically modified ingredients.

Organize

Just in the past week, Whole Foods, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farms pulled their dogs from the fight to prevent genetically engineered crops, saying, in effect, that it was hopeless, yet, ironically, remaining hopeful that if the USDA has some regulation, it’s better than nothing, so we should celebrate! You can read here what they actually said, but I think I’m summarizing it fairly accurately, though admittedly snidely.

The New York Times had an article, which you can read here, saying that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack caved into pressure from Monsanto.

There is a very interesting organization I have just learned about this week, called The Organic Consumers Association, and they are a wealth of information about this topic. Whole Foods feels wronged by them, and they have an interesting comeback on their blog.

This article explains the whole story in better detail than I do.

I could go on, siting interesting reading, but the point is, we need to do something. This is one of those times that if we choose to ignore the problem, it will not go away, now, nor ever.

My overall impression is that first and foremost, we need to do all we can to get labeling legislation passed and try to prevent Monsanto from being given carte blanche to grow GE seeds wherever they like. At first I felt very angry at Whole Foods, Organic Valley, and Stonyfield Farms from caving, but I’m backing off my original intent to boycott them. They are not sticking their noses out farther than they need to, but they are also not the problem. Lack of regulation is the problem.

So, I have volunteered to be a distributor and collector of the Organic Consumer’s Association petition to get labeling laws for our congressional district (8th district, Massachusetts). I ask you to please sign this petition if you see it. If you, too, want to help distribute it, please do. Ask your friends in other parts of the country to do so, as well. Here is a link for more information. I also am asking any local stores, especially food oriented, though any store would be great, to allow me to put petitions up on your premises. This affects us all.

This is probably near-impossible to succeed, but if we don’t try, it definitely won’t, so please take a few minutes to read some of these articles and do anything you can to help.

(This is reposted from Cooking the Seasons, a Somerville food blog. Renée is looking for local stores that are willing to have a petition up. If you are interested, please email her at [email protected].  The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Somerville Local First, its board or staff)

A Somerville Psychotherapist’s Guide to Keeping Sane While Managing a Local Business

Feb 02 11:33 am

Running your own local business is no easy task. Between the long hours and the hard work it’s quite easy to lose sight of yourself while focusing on your business goals.  That’s why we invited local psychotherapist and SLF member Ruth Faris to share her advice to business owners on how to prevent yourself from losing steam. Read Ruth’s story and find out ways you can recharge your own batteries once in awhile:

Ruth Faris

My dining room table is littered with receipts as I organize for meeting with my tax guy….and oh yeah is it part of my gas bill or my electric bill that I get to deduct?

More snow is coming, again, and its me that has to get out there to shovel, and no one is going to call to tell me ‘stay home, don’t worry about trying to get in,’ and if I want to take time off later this week for yet another chiropractor visit for this aching back, I have no bank of sick time to use.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Nothing at all, really; I’m self-employed, and very happily so for most of the time. But yes, there are special pressures that all of us on this brave adventure feel. My business is probably pretty different from most of yours; I am a clinical social worker and I have a private psychotherapy practice. I have a cozy office that I had  built into my home  in 1985 (after doing therapy out of a spare-bedroom-turned-office for a year or two). Its a pretty simple operation: just me, and my clients who come for sessions.  I do my best to help them feel better, live better, achieve some of their goals. I truly love this work and feel myself  privileged to do it, right here on my tiny Somerville street.

Of course, its also ‘just me’ who cleans the bathroom, spreads the snow melt, spends an awful lot of time on the phone with insurance companies. I have important outside support from a group of  other therapists that has met bi-weekly for over 25 years, to consult and guide each other through difficult and confusing issues.

Another huge support is my billing service, people who I have never met but am in constant communication with; how else to navigate the complicated requirements of each insurance company? And yes, you might hear me complaining about how I have to run downstairs to pull up the rugs just in case the rain floods in yet again, or how one of the insurance companies reduced payments by 15%.  But, there is no doubt that I love being self-employed and happily go through these difficulties as part of the package….’part of the price of doing business’ as they say.

I know that every small business has its own version of  hassles and joys, but one  thing we surely have in common is the need to keep ourselves steady and healthy and balanced through it all. We are the ones responsible for our own well-being and this is one task that cannot be delegated.

Your responsibilities are many and never-ending: inventory and staff management and payroll and insurance and so on… forget any one of these at your peril. But, how often do you think about taking care of yourself as one of the items on your daily ‘to do’ list? Do you have ‘scheduled maintenance’ for yourself just as you do to keep your vehicles, computers, and other equipment in good working order?

There are some basics of self-care and stress-reduction that we have all heard a million times: sleeping and eating well, getting exercise, having some amount of fun and ‘down-time’ ….  there are books and blogs and CD’s and entire industries set up to tell us how to do that.

Taking self-care seriously is as at least as  important to your bottom-line and success as any other upgrade or improvement you are planning for your business this year.   What this self-care will look like for you, I’m not sure; for me, its daily yoga; long walks; thrift store shopping; appreciating the humor in life; and so forth.

It would be great to hear from any of you who care to tell us how you deal with stress day to day, and how you take care of your SLF-business and yourSELF in the process!

‘Villen in the works

Feb 01 10:47 am

by Katie Riedman

About 4 months ago when I began my search for a spring internship, I found myself scrolling through pages of gofer jobs at law firms and libraries with descriptions reading “daily responsibilities include running the dish washer, sending faxes , and making coffee.” And while I am quite good at doing the dishes and I love a good cup of coffee, I felt my intern experience needed a little more substance. After a few weeks of discouragement, I stumbled upon a marketing internship at Somerville Local First. The SLF job description sounded motivating and fun and after doing my research, the company description sounded moving and exciting and I wanted to be a part of it.

Before moving to the greater Boston area, I grew up in a Seattle suburb where going green wasn’t a trend, but a lifestyle and most of my friends had worm bins in their backyard. Needless to say, moving to Boston was a huge transition. I love living in a new city and getting to explore a new part of the country. However, I still missed the comforts of home and felt that something was missing.

Now 4 months later, I’m going into my 3rd week at SLF and I already feel like a part of the Somerville family. The city itself has a Seattle-esque atmosphere and offers the vibrancy and variety that I miss in Boston.  And the opportunities I’ve been given within my internship have broaden my perspective and allowed me to participate in the community. Currently, I’m working on a Public Service Announcement video that will capture Somerville’s local businesses and connect them to the community. Next on my agenda is the annual Coupon Book that offers a lot of great promotions that will be sure to entice a Somervillian into checking out a new place or going back to an old favorite. And even though it’s not until June, I’m already excited to start planning for our Somerfun festival.

I still have 6 months of my SLF internship to go and I’m looking forward to learning more about the community, the organization, and taking on all the future projects to come.

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