Tuesday, October 16, 2012

How to Ethically Shop in a Rural Area

Welcome to the October 2012 Natural Living Blog Carnival: Ethical Shopping Choices

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Natural Living Blog Carnival hosted by Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project through the Green Moms Network. This month our members have written posts about how they make purchasing choices.


Living in a rural area can sometimes make shopping ethically a bit challenging. Even with the nearest shopping areas 14 miles away (one way), Fair Trade items aren't easy to find in these towns.

First, what are Fair Trade items? According to Fair Trade USA, "Fair Trade is a global trade model and certification allows shoppers to quickly identify products that were produced in an ethical manner.

"For consumers, Fair Trade offers a powerful way to reduce poverty through their everyday shopping. For farmers and workers in developing countries, Fair Trade offers better prices, improved terms of trade, and the business skills necessary to produce high-quality products that can compete in the global marketplace.

"Through vibrant trade, farmers and workers can improve their lives and plan for their futures. Today, Fair Trade benefits more than 1.2 million farming families in 70 developing countries across Africa, Asia and Latin America."

The easiest place to find Fair Trade items is at the local co-op. The nearest one is 16 miles away (one way).


In lieu of easily finding Fair Trade food products, another way to ethically shop in rural areas is by supporting local farmers...ideally organic farmers.

For people who eat meat, buying directly from a farmer often means that the animals are treated much more humanely; are able to spend time outdoors and in pastures; and not injected with hormones and antibiotics. As one of the farmers we purchase from said, "We don't give them hormones and shots because we don't want that in our bodies."

Cow that was at the Minnesota State Fair.
She was very friendly.

The exception, of course, is if an animal gets sick and needs necessary medical attention. Then, a shot may be necessary. The farmers we purchase from are against using unnecessary injections.

We also go to farms that have pick-your-own berries during the summer; and visit the apple orchard in the fall. These are great ways to get fresh produce at a fraction of the cost that one would pay in the stores.


We like going to farmers markets whenever possible. The markets are wonderful places to purchase produce that often grown organically. An extra bonus: the organic produce at the markets are often competitively priced with the conventionally-grown produce at grocery stores.

A fun trip we took this summer was to southeastern Minnesota where there is a large Amish community. At the end of August, there was a wide variety of produce available at Amish farmers markets, road-side stands, and at their homes.

The Amish farmers market being set up.
The horses were resting under the pine trees nearby market.
There was a wonderful variety of produce, canned goods, 
eggs, and handicrafts at the market.

Many of the Amish families sell directly to the public and have buildings on their property with produce and other handmade items.

Woodwork by an Amish craftsman.
This was at one of the farms that we visited.

Next year, I plan to make another trip to visit this community to stock up on produce to can, freeze, and dry.

The ovens that one of the Amish bakeries used.

Going to southeastern Minnesota is not only an enjoyable vacation - but a way to save money on fresh, organic produce.


We also have partnered and traded with local farmers. For example, for several years a local beekeeper wanted to keep hives at the farm. He liked that our farm has apple, cherry, pear, and plum trees as well as clover. 

The honey he was able to get each year from the hives here was superior to that he could get from his hives at other locations.

Beehive 2
One of the hives at our farm.

In exchange for having the hives here, he gave us some of the honey each year. It was a great trade!


Next month, on November 17th, Do It Green! Minnesota is offering its annual Green Gifts Fair right before Thanksgiving. The event is meant to introduce green gift options and low impact ideas to celebrate the holidays including Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, New Year's, and everything in between. 

There will be 70+ local eco-vendors for green, recycled, fair-trade, and organic gifts. In addition, there will be demonstrations, activities, and take home information about how to reduce one's environmental impact over the holidays.

The free 2013 Do It Green! Directory will be available for attendees. The directory has over 150 Do It Green! approved green businesses and organizations.

The event also will have food samples. However, there also are over 30 restaurants and dining options at Midtown Global Market.

They encourage people to bring their your own reusable shopping bags, coffee mugs, plates, and silverware set to reduce the waste at the event. There's even a place to bring your old holiday lights to drop off for recycling.

Although this is over 35 miles from where we live (one way), it is worth the drive in since there will be so many vendors, samples, and activities. I'm looking forward to going to this event!


With all this being said, sometimes ethically shopping may not be possible due to financial constraints or other issues that are happening in one's life. And that's okay. Hopefully there will be a time in the future when things will turn around, and purchasing decisions that you want to make that reflect your values will once again be possible.

A good reminder that I read somewhere is:  "Above all… forgive yourself. If you have to buy cheap mass-produced chicken parts, you do. Keeping your family fed, clothed, and housed is the only measure of success. Don’t be your own harshest critic."

Natural Living Blog Carnival

Visit Happy Mothering and The Pistachio Project to learn more about participating in next month’s Natural Living Blog Carnival!

Please take some time to enjoy the posts our other carnival participants have contributed:


Karen Terry said...

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Mendy Boyd said...

I didn't know to look for fair trade products at the co-op, thanks! We also have several Amish communities nearby and a place called "The Farm" (sort of a communal living type thing) that supports all eco products. They even have a solar powered school! I really need to make it a priority to get out to these places more.

Becky Elmuccio said...

Fantastic tips for shopping for foods ethically and responsibly. I love that you have the hives on your farm. Have a great time at the fair next month!

Laura Broach said...

I would love to be able to visit an Amish market!!!! Great article. Thanks :)