I’ve been hearing this question for the last two years as we reach out to town outside of our own. “Local” doesn’t have to me “In my backyard.”  Somehow “local” has become co-opted into “my town,” in an effort to spread sustainably.  I think that’s an unfair expectation. 

If we look historically at the way our country was created, it wasn’t by having every town having everything that the towns people would know. If every town had it’s own granary, there wouldn’t be enough grain grown to make it profitable. Nearly every town had a farrier because the need was there to support that, but in other areas, where collecting a large supply of something to make it feasible to make a profit.

The same is true today. If every town has an arena, is it possible to keep it affordable for the town’s folk? If every town has a farmers market, who grows the food if the farmers have to travel to all of them to meet the consumer demand?  How is it profitable for the farmer if only those in his/her own town support them?  Couldn’t those people get that food from the farmer, instead of the farmer’s market?

Sustainability is about making judgements about what is reasonable?  Yes, cutting our dependency on oil is important, but if driving a reasonable distance allows access to a wide variety of services or food choices, isn’t that a more reasonable use of that oil than driving to many individual markets, or farms, that don’t have enough product to give a good choice? 

People need to decide “What is it worth to me?” to make the choice of the need for something, or not. If a regional center offers things that can’t be accessed in your neighborhood, how badly do you want it?  Starting a new business is very costly for most people. Is it worthwhile to use a shared facility to produce and then selling in your own town, or elsewhere? That’s something that each person has to decide.  But we have to look past convenience, which has become a mantra for many people, and start to look at what is reasonable and practical to sustain.  This is a new way of thinking for many people, but something that we all need to do. How much each of us do is our own personal choice.