Judging by the rising number of independent restaurants sourcing natural products, the year-round farmers' markets that are popping up and the growing exposure of "Local First Utah," buying local was the hot theme for the holidays, which couldn't be a better gift for local artists and food producers.
According to Local First, a non-profit organization that promotes independently owned businesses in the state, spending just 10 percent more at local businesses would keep $487 million in the Utah economy each year.
The study by Civic Economics revealed locally owned retailers return 52 percent of their revenue to the local economy while national chain retailers return just 14 percent of their revenues.
But buying local isn't good only for the wallet, it's often much better for the environment and for your health.
Think about it, why eat bananas that were shipped thousands of miles away to Utah when there are so many fruits that grow readily here, including apples, peaches, strawberries, cherries, raspberries and more.
Eating an apple that is locally grown not only supports the farmer who cared for it, but cuts down on the amount of fuel used to ship it, packaging and so forth.
Buying local also encourages people to eat more seasonally, which is a crucial but often overlooked element of health.
People have a tendency of getting into a food rut, eating the same breakfast, going to the same lunch establishments and eating the same go-to dinner almost every week.
Eating seasonally encourages more variety in the diet and fits in better with nature's cycle. It's natural to turn to watery, cooling foods in the summer and heavier, stick-to-your-ribs meals in the winter.
Buy local and winners abound all around.
So here is my challenge for you, starting now through February. Let's see how local we can all get, shall we?
Think local as you buy your apparel, food and other needed items. Even if the raw products aren't local, supporting independent artists is a great way to give in two directions, to the recipient of the gift and to the artist.
Buy produce that is local from farmer's markets that continue in the winter. Other venues, such as Cali's, Mololo Gardens, Earth Goods General Store, Wasatch Front Farmer's Market store, Liberty Heights and Caputo's all carry locally made goods and local produce and meats. Even larger chains, such as Harmon's, Smith's and Whole Foods are carrying more and more local items.
We'll leave the definition of local up to you. Generally, anything made in Utah can be local, but some staples, such as spices, might not be locally made. However, you could buy from a local vendor or craftsman. Coffee might not be grown locally but we have several great independent roasters you can support, sugar isn't grown locally but we have great independent local bee keepers whose products can be used in place of sugar.
If you need resources, Local First is a great place to start to find products. Get the move going by letting me know the challenges and findings that come your way and the efforts you are making to embrace going local.
More than anything, have fun with the challenge, there is no telling what great findings you'll make in your own backyard!
Lya Wodraska is a certified CHEK Practitioner and holistic lifestyle coach. Email questions to Lwodraska@sltrib.com.