Groceries and Politics

In one of the permaculture forums I belong to, someone brought up a grocery-shopping dilemma. This person wants to eat as local as possible; support his local farms. But his farmer neighbors are flying a large sign for a political leader whose views and conduct he finds morally repugnant. He asked us, would you buy produce from these people? 

Responses were divided. Some said yes; politics are irrelevant; if we could only buy from people we agree with, we’d all have to produce all of our own food and other stuff.

Others said no way they’d support the farmer who supports the “bad-guy” politician.  

I sided with the first camp. 

If it’s a choice between food grown locally or food from afar, I choose local, regardless of political affiliation. (Assuming the local grower is using organic methods.) My reasoning is that the whole messed-up industrial food system we’ve got is most likely itself a product of politics I don’t agree with. And large-scale ag creates atrocious conditions for wildlife and humans. 

Also, there will always be political differences among people, even within a neighborhood. I place a high premium on being able to walk or bicycle to get my food, and having it come from right nearby. 

I also think it’s extremely important for us all to foster, in our communities, a neighborly cohesion that transcends politics. Neighborly cohesion is a community’s greatest asset in times of crisis; it can make the difference between life and death.  (On that note, if the political or cultural differences with neighbors are so marked and pervasive that it’s hard to build ties, that may be a sign that it’s time to move to a different neighborhood. But before you do that, you might want to try doing business with those “different” neighbors. You might be surprised at how far it goes toward achieving a state of practical peace and harmony.)

Even in tranquil times, with no flesh-eating zombies trying to beat down our doors, neighborly ties just make for a happier life. I know people who’ve lived in the same place for years and never met their neighbors. And so, when they go on vacation, they can’t find anyone to watch their cat or whatever.

And, as another member pointed out, if we buy produce from far away, we don’t know the politics and treatment of workers who pick the bananas and own the field in Colombia; we don’t know the politics of the truck driver and the parent company responsible for getting the bananas to our local grocery. 

Another member commented, “I’d rather buy local food from a local asshole than from an asshole halfway around the world.” Of course this applies to other goods, and to services as well.

That said, all other things being equal, if the option is available to support someone who I feel more of an affinity with (be it political or religious, or just that the person is kind and friendly), I will take it. I am also always on the lookout to support Black-owned business, woman-owned business, and others I want to give a boost to.

In my neighborhood, there are four mini-marts in walking distance. The one I most often go to is the smallest, least fancy one. I go there because it’s a Mom & Pop, whose owner is pleasant and cares about the community. He hires homeless people to do odd jobs.

If all of the mini marts were flying banners of someone or something I disagree with, I’d probably just shop at whichever place carried the item I wanted.

How about you? Does politics (or religion, or any other affinity) affect your shopping for groceries or other essential goods and services?

P.S. One of my favorite quotes on this topic just popped into my mind. When I find out who said this, I’ll post the person’s name. Here is a great bit of wisdom:

“The best security is well-fed neighbors.”