The 'Go Local' challenge
by Elizabeth Ruiz
Posted on June 16, 2009
The objective: Consume only from local businesses for one week. That includes all amenities: Food, clothing, gas, you name it. This is the challenge from Homegrown El Paso, a membership organization that promotes local businesses. There’s some math applied to it that, according to Homegrown El Paso board member and president Don Baumgardt. “Studies show that if you spend $100 at a chain store about $13 stays in town. If you spend that same $100 with a locally owned independent store about $45 will stay in El Paso and turn over and over again in our economy,” he wrote in a press release announcing the challenge.
The challenge is part of “Independent’s Week,” a week of events beginning with a walk on Scenic Drive on Sunday (June 28) and ending with a march in the Fourth of July Parade on the West Side of El Paso. (Click here for schedule.)
Baumgardt argues that solid a economic advantage can be achieved through local business patronage, and it doesn’t literally have to be “homegrown.” “It depends on how far you want to take it,” he said in a phone interview. An example? “You can go to Jaxon’s and drink a beer that they brewed.” Of course, the only "local" ingredient in the beer might be the water, further illustrating the illusive nature of "homegrown" in El Paso.
With the knowledge that the challenge doesn’t entail exclusive consumption of food that is literally grown here, I want to ease into becoming more “homegrown.” Local grocery stores, such as J.R. Produce and Food City, would count as a food source, but why stop there? In fact, there are seasonal markets around town that sell food that is grown in the West Texas/Southern New Mexico area, and that list doesn’t stop at Ardovino’s Desert Crossing. (For a listing of local markets, click here.)
When I first heard about the homegrown challenge that I, the designated staff guinea pig, would take, I anticipated living off various greens grown in the outskirts of the county and Southern New Mexico and following a staunch slow food regimen, eating only foods grown in a 100-mile radius. Don said that might be more realistic in some communities than others, but to jump into a 100 percent slow food diet: “I don’t think it’s realistic.” To do so, I would have started my own garden, never mind the harsh temperatures and my complete ignorance of the art, but the vegetables wouldn’t sprout up in time for my challenge, which started yesterday. (If only I could swing by Weldon Yerby Senior Citizens Garden.) When Don gave me the go to find what’s unique about our local eateries, a window opened.
Baumgardt answers the question: Why go local?
So, where to start? I got my breakfast at Las Colorines, a Mexican eatery frequented by professionals who work around the Chase Building downtown. For my next stop, I rationalized my craving for sushi by thinking, “I don’t even know of any sushi chain restaurants other than Sushi Zushi.” I allowed myself that indulgence at Sumo Sushi, a small eatery on N. Zaragosa between Pellicano and Rojas.
Day one was not the most enterprising day in my local excursion. I met all the technicalities, but to be an overachiever, it’s going to take some research about where the food comes from. You can't get more local than Chico’s Tacos, but I think it’s safe to say that the ingredients might not have been grown in the Lower Valley.
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