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Erin Cowell - September 20th, 2010
Growing Self Reliance: Oryana’s Toast to Farmers features ‘localism’ expert
By Erin Crowell
The early morning stirs with the busyness of shoppers at a local
farmers market. Goods are strewn about tables, stacked in bushels and
overflowing rims of wicker baskets. There’s a sense of connection,
optimism and energy flowing through the crowd of vendors and
“It’s the good feeling we get at a farmers market,” explains localism
expert Michael Shuman, “that we see local as made for better taste,
better health and better support of farmers; but, at the end of the
day, people are getting a better value for their food.”
When all is said and done, Shuman says buying local is better for the
bottom line – a desirable trait aside from the fuzzy feelings of good
for oneself and community when it comes to local investment.
Shuman will be the featured speaker at A Toast to Farmers, an event
that celebrates the local food economy hosted by Oryana Natural Foods
Market on Thursday, Oct. 7 at the Hagerty Center in Traverse City.
“It’s a way to honor and thank the farmers who work with our store and
all the farmers in general,” said Sandi McArthur, education and
outreach coordinator for Oryana.
While locals will have the opportunity to meet with the farmers who
provide their food, Shuman will discuss how buying local reaches
beyond the edges of the dinner table.

Shuman is author of several books including “Going Local: Creating
Self-Reliant Communities in a Global Age” and “The Small-Mart
Revolution: How Local Businesses are beating the Global Competition.”
In one of his books, Shuman points out that “Going local does not mean
walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned
businesses, which use local resources sustainably, employ local
workers at decent wages, and serve primarily local consumers. It means
becoming more self-sufficient, and less dependent on imports. Control
moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back to the
community, where it belongs.”
Oryana currently works with 25 local farms and over 90 local vendors,
according to McArthur.
“It’s a win-win situation, when dollars are spent locally,” she says.
“One dollar spent within the community will circulate five or six
times. There’s a multiplier effect that when you buy local, you are
adding to the local economy on many levels and I think a lot of people
get that.”
Shuman agrees more people are getting aboard the local train – and he
pinpoints the exact moment he realized that train’s momentum was
gaining steam.
“There’s no question that is has become a popular trend. The moment
when that became clear to me was in 2007, with the cover of TIME
Magazine and the headline that read, ‘Forget Organic, Eat Local.’ When
you make the cover of TIME, you’re riding the cultural wave.”
However, Shuman says this movement is more than just a trend.
“To put it simply as a popular trend suggests it will pass. The
underling economics of local food are becoming better and better and
they’ll be getting better still,” he explains.
This is reflective in the price of local food.
“The prices at a farmers market are somewhat higher, which reflects
that the demand of local food is much higher than larger suppliers,”
says Shuman. “More money is going to distribution costs (shipping,
insurance, storage, etc.); and whenever that number gets larger, it
shows distribution has become wildly inefficient.”

Shuman and McArthur both believe food has become the most common and
compelling entry point for communities to dive into local economy
“Local economy starts with a vibrant agricultural center,” says
McArthur, “and not being dependent on other parts of the world. In
that, we’re protecting our rural landscapes. All of those things come
with supporting a vibrant local agricultural center.”
However, it doesn’t stop there.
“There’s no end to what markets could be handled on the local level,”
says McArthur. “Goods, services, energy…it’s just a matter of
ingenuity and the community backing it up.”
As he has traveled the past 15 years around the country and across the
globe, Shuman hopes he will help Northern Michigan realize its
“There are three main points I bring up: One, there is overwhelming
evidence that locally owned businesses generate more business. Two,
Locally owned businesses are actually becoming increasingly
competitive and its highly likely that areas, specifically in the food
market, will expand enormously in the next generation; and three,
there are substantial values to achieving the full potential of local
economy by undertaking both the private and public sector to get the
potential for growth started more quickly.”

Michael Shuman will be the featured speaker at the Toast to Farmers,
happening Thursday, Oct. 7 at the Hagerty Center in Traverse City,
from 6-9 p.m. The event—which features local hors d’oeuvres and cash
bar, along with live music by the Neptune Quartet—is hosted by Oryana
Natural Foods Market and is sponsored by the Michigan Land Use
Institute, the Bioneers, The Grand Vision, the USDA Rural Development
Program and The Neahtawanta Center. Tickets, $20 for members; $25 for
non-members and are available at Oryana or by calling 947-0191.

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