Earlier this week, I discovered the health food store County Sun Natural Foods in Palo Alto. It’s just wonderful. The employees are friendly, the selection of products is excellent, the outdoor seating area is very pleasant, and my co-worker says the Marin location it the only place she buys her meat.
But the best part is that it’s a local, independent business that has been around since 1971, and it supports local suppliers. On the store’s website, the owners state, “We are committed to supporting our local suppliers because local food is fresher, has better flavor, reduces the use of fossil fuels, and benefits the local economy.” I was genuinely impressed when I read this. If you’ve been following the news about Monsanto and Whole Foods, you appreciate the value of local retailers. It’s easy to focus on organic food but forget about supporting local business. And to forget about the importance of nourishing ourselves the way nature intended – with local, seasonal food. Choosing organic food, of course, is very important. But selecting organic coconuts and pineapples in the middle of winter may not be the best way to go. Produce that’s shipped over a far distance has lost a significant amount of its nutritional value by the time it hits the shelves, and it has a much higher carbon footprint than local alternatives.
What’s more, by supporting local businesses, you’re asserting your voice in determining the kinds of foods you want to be available to you. When we patronize large chain grocery stores, we give them an undue amount of power over the food we eat. If a grocery chain decides to carry foods that have been contaminated with GMO seeds, and there’s no local grocery store to take your business to instead because they’ve been run out by the chain stores, then we’ve all lost the ability to determine how we want to nourish ourselves. We’re supporting practices we don’t believe in, because there’s no alternative. So shopping at stores like Country Sun is a powerful tool that we as consumers should take advantage of. It allows us to demonstrate to the food industry that we believe in local, organic food and that those are the criteria we use in making our purchasing choices.