The Benefit of Buying Local: Creating Circular Economies

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Welcome to the first-ever Phoenix Fruit Farm blog post!

We’ll launch this new venture with the first of a series called “The Benefits of Buying Local.” The series is aimed at explaining some of the ideas that drive purpose at PFF!

Our motto at Phoenix Fruit Farm is “Fruit with a Conscience.” One of the main ways we seek to conscientiously operate is by fostering the resiliency and environmental fortitude of the regional economy in which we exist. Those ideas align well with the principles of circular economic systems.

Read on to learn what a circular economy is, how Phoenix Fruit Farm participates, and how you as a consumer can, too. Not much of a reader? Find resources for visual and auditory learners at the end of this piece, or listen to a great local podcast episode with owner Elly Vaughan all about local food here.

What is a Circular Economy?

The lifecycle of a product usually goes in the order of “make—take—dispose.” Instead of ending the lifecycle of a product at “dispose,” a circular economic model imagines “return” or “enrich” as the next stage.

A simple example of this would be the linear life of a styrofoam drink container, versus the (ideally) circular existence of a returnable bottle or compostable container. Whereas styrofoam is usually disposed of and ends the product cycle, glass bottles can be returned, and the right compostable material can be used to enrich soil.

Circular economic models are ideal because once established, they can often self-sustain in a way that benefits the community, planet, and economy itself.

How Does PFF Hope to Participate in a Circular Economy?

Most importantly, by building regional connections. In 2020 Phoenix Fruit Farm owner Elly Vaughan won the Amherst A+ Award for Innovation specifically because of our focus on building local networks for regional growers, makers, and producers. You may know as us the you-pick peach and apple orchard with the best views in the Pioneer Valley, but we pride ourselves on the strength of our store, too.

At the Phoenix Fruit Farm Country Store, we strive to not let anything go to waste. Produce that shows signs of aging is given a second life in our Belchertown kitchen to create delicious to-go meals, soups, sauces, and sweets. When prepared food is expiring, or produce is unfit for humans, it then is donated to a local pig farmer to enrich the next crop of ham.

With certain producers, such as Harmony Springs Soda from Ludlow, we can achieve a truly circular system. Phoenix Fruit Farm Store purchases their awesome all-natural soda, we have it delivered, collect the empty bottles and hand them back at the next delivery for a return rebate. Those bottles will continue in circulation ad perpetuam, barring breaking or improper recycling.

How Can Consumers Participate in a Circular Economy?

Whenever possible, think regionally. It’s not just about food — consider changing national services and policies to local ones wherever possible (think: building supplies, insurance policies, banking, etc). This can be hugely impactful in the creation or maintaining of jobs in your region, which impacts overall economic development.

Shop small. Circular economic models can be difficult to implement on a large scale, so seek out small businesses that are knowledgeable of their supply chains. If you are unable to access small businesses that carry an array of regional items like the Phoenix Fruit Farm Country Store, consider contacting local producers directly about buying in bulk, or organizing an order with a few friends.

Most importantly, use your voice! Don’t be afraid to ask where goods come from, how they’re made, and about the businesses that grow, create or make them. Purchasing power is real! Give feedback to your regular shopping locations about products and processes you would like to have access to. Lastly, be sure to support legislation and community action that focuses on regional economic health and the building of circular economies over large corporate interests.

Find outside resources below for more information on circular economies, including a full-length documentary. Keep the conversation going!

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