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Scott Hutcheson

Lebanon Reporter

A few years ago, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman penned a best-seller called, “The World is Flat.” He confirmed what many economists had been saying for years, but he finally put it in terms that non-economists could understand. We have a global economy, and the old ways of doing business just don’t work anymore. We’re currently witnessing what can happen in a globally networked economy. When one nation’s economy goes in the tank, so does the rest of the world’s.

Another book that came out a little later, but didn’t get nearly as much attention, called “Deep Economy,” was written by Bill McKibben. He argues that what we really need to focus on is our local (deep) economy. He zeros in on three areas he thinks local economies need to deepen — energy, the arts and food.

In other words, he urges communities to develop ways to produce and consume more of these things to be used within the communities. They should produce and use some of their own energy — through wind farms biofuel, solar, etc. Communities should encourage and support local arts — music, visual arts, dramatic arts and the like. And communities should grow more food locally that is eaten locally.

Interestingly, both Friedman and McKibben sort of dismiss the other’s view of economy. Friedman sees the economy only as wide and flat and McKibben rebels against the global economy to focus deeply. In actuality, we need to pay attention to both, a deep and wide economy.

The energy economy is, as they say, “above my pay grade.” I don’t even pretend to understand the electrical grid and alternative sources of energy. Food and the arts, on the other hand, I can wrap my head around.

So what does it mean to have a deep food and arts economy? Well, one easy way to find out is to show up at the inaugural Lebanon Farmers’ Market this Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to noon. You’ll have a chance to buy food from local farmers and gardeners and art from local artists. That’s how you develop a deep economy.

Sure, we’ll always go to the grocery store to purchase the bulk of our food. The availability of bananas, for instance, is made possible by a global economy. The local big-box retailer will also be a choice for the latest Billboard-topping CD. You can, however, shift a few of those dollars locally by purchasing some of your food from the farmers’ market and shelling out a few bucks for a CD produced by a local band. Thanks to something called the multiplier effect, these dollars spent here with local people have a significant impact on our community.

A recent study done in Maine indicated that shifting just 1% of consumer expenditures to direct purchasing of local food products increases local producers’ income 5%. Using the study’s formula, if each Lebanon household would spend $10 per week on locally produced food during the weeks the farmers’ market is in operation, nearly $1 million would be invested back into the local economy.

By committing $10 a week to locally grown and raised foods, you are ensuring that your family is not only eating the freshest foods available, but also helping to sustain our local economy. As Wendell Berry, American poet, author and farmer, said “A significant part of the pleasure of eating is in one’s accurate consciousness of the lives and the world from which the food comes.” I’m making my $10-a-week commitment and hope you will do the same. See you at the farmers’ market.

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