Elizabeth Archangeli, What's Your 'Local'?
I love being able to eat locally as much as I do. I always buy local meat, beer, cheese, chocolate and fruits and veggies whenever I can. Happily, I buy these things because they’re delicious, not just because they’re local. I’m not hardcore about it, and I’m unable to resist fresh berries and tropical fruits in the wintertime.
It feels oddly luxurious to pick up a steak that comes from a cow raised a half mile from my home. But this just underscores how backward our food system has become: Buying beef from down the road should be unremarkable and commonplace, like it used to be. We’re in the middle of something special here in Vermont and we’re proud of it, as we should be. I look forward to the day, though, when buying local is not a luxury, or a novelty, and when it doesn’t have to be constantly trumpeted.
For most major furniture purchases, I buy reclaimed wood from local salvagers and have my carpenter build what I need. Not only is this so much easier on the environment, I get an economical, utterly unique finished product that I could never find for any amount of money. I had my office table built from old spinning wheel treadles and the original slate chalkboard from the schoolhouse in Charlotte. It cost me $450 and is priceless to me.
I don’t think local should really have a mileage definition, and the spirit with which something is made is just as important to me. There’s a community out there beyond Vermont that also believes in environmental and social justice, in high-quality, healthy products. It may be a stretch, but one could argue that in buying within this community, one is staying “local” in a very important sense. I’d rather buy milk from a Wisconsin dairy that treats its farmworkers fairly than from a Vermont dairy that withholds pay from its laborers. Being educated about how what you consume is produced is just as important as where it is produced. I recognize that’s easier said than done.
With Cricket Radio, the order of thinking is: Can I get it in Vermont? Can I get it on the East Coast? Can I get it in the United States? I manufacture my products with Italian linen rather than U.S.-grown cotton because cotton is simply a terrible crop, and linen is inherently sustainable, in addition to being a fabulous product. I use Japanese water-based inks because they are the most eco-friendly. So in these cases, local is not the right choice for me.
Cricket Radio is still small, but providing employment for creative people is by far the highlight of my job. When I start a new project and get to reach out to new craftspeople and local suppliers to help me realize my vision, I couldn’t be happier. I’ve never felt more a part of a community as I do now. I’m proud that Cricket Radio is beginning to find its place within Vermont’s impressive food movement and I’m always happy to participate, whether it’s to loan linens to Shelburne Farms for their Farm to Table series, or to make linen chef’s jackets for Juniper for the James Beard Foundation awards dinner. We are also working with several hotels in the area, like Basin Harbor Club, Green Mountain Suites and Stowe Mountain Lodge, providing everything from shower curtains to duvet covers to wall art. We’re finding that the hotel owners are so excited to be able to furnish their rooms with high-quality products that tell our local Vermont story so well.
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