‘Support Local’ is a phrase that has become increasingly popular in recent times, but what does it really mean? Do we abandon our favourite foreign brands? Do we promise to ONLY buy products that are produced locally. When we say local do we mean Trinidad and Tobago or by extension can we squeeze in the Caribbean region as well? Because I’ll admit that ‘support regional’ just isn’t as catchy.
What does it mean to support local?
On a scale of Trini to d bone to ‘Other’ we can find a healthy balance. I believe that one does not have to ONLY buy local to prove their support. As I thought about the idea, I then reached out to Afiya Francis, founder of InSeason Tours, to guide us through this notion of supporting local. In Afiya’s words, supporting local means, “building a stronger economy by supporting local businesses, large and small that produce and manufacture goods locally. It means supporting local farmers, artisans and other small, independent businesses.”
Afiya is delighted to support local and this is evident in the way she manages her business. InSeason Tours is one of the first local tourism companies that provides locals and foreigners with the opportunity to explore and learn about Trinidad and Tobago through their palate. Support is shown for the local economy as the meals provided on tours are prepared by small business caterers. Members of the community and artisans are also encouraged to promote and sell their products to participants. Their recent activities included a tour of Paramin, a food for thought journaling tour and visiting a cocoa estate. Be sure to check out this video for a greater look at InSeason Tours in action.
Afiya Francis, Founder of InSeason Tours
Talk the talk, Walk the walk
Perhaps Afiya’s greatest display of local support is through her business, however, she is clearly one who talks the talk and walks the walk. When posed with the question, “In what ways do you as an individual contribute to supporting local ventures, businesses, events and products?” she responded, “I love trying new local products that are either sold at the supermarket or I find at our local farmers markets or food fairs. I’m so proud to see the recent boom in artisanal products, especially in cocoa. I try to buy everything local from oatmeal to cocoa. I rarely buy strawberries and other imported fruits and I eat what is InSeason (see what I did there!)”
‘Dancing the cocoa’ during the Cocoa and Spice Tour
Participants explore the hills of Paramin during a tour
Participants snap a shot during ‘Chow and Chill’
Widening the scope
As much as we trinis ‘love we belly’, supporting local is not merely done by purchasing local foods but must also extend to supporting other local products as well. Afiya mentioned that we’re seeing new jewelry and clothing brands emerging, hair and skin care products made with natural, locally sourced ingredients as well as new furniture designers, ceramic and pottery brands. However, she suspects that the lack of support may be due to a lack of marketing by business owners. Nonetheless, she agrees that social media and artisanal markets such as Up Market, Green Market and NAMDEVCO (The National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation) do help entrepreneurs to promote and sell their products. I can definitely vouch for this because if you know me you’d know I love visiting the Green Market in Santa Cruz, so much so that I wrote an article on their good work in promoting entrepreneurs and artisans.
Afiya is also a fan of the Green Market and loves the work of Upmarket, ThingsTT and NAMDEVCO which create spaces for local artisans and farmers to showcase and sell their products. Also making her list of personal favourites is The Normandie Hotel which promotes unique local clothing, pottery, jewelry and other products as great gifts for locals and foreigners and Designer Island which features a comprehensive list of local items that they believe will be great Christmas gifts.
That price though
This all sounds great but what about the price? Afiya comments, “A lot of consumers don’t respect the time and energy that goes into producing quality products and they complain about the price.” Very often we find that our drive to support local is thwarted by high prices.
Our questions and comment include:
- But why that so expensive if they getting them materials right here?
- What they feel it is, they don’t even have a big name, I sure I could get a cheaper xyz from *insert foreign brand* here.
- See why I does order my ting online.
Then there’s my all time favourite “*steups* But watch this I sure I could make this home,all they do is…” while the point is precisely the fact that you can’t, choose not to or don’t have the time to make it so why not pay someone for having spent the time to skillfully do so? I echo Afiya’s sentiments, “first and foremost we need to support local by respecting the people who create the products as well as the process.”
Of course we do have to get value for our money but let’s not belittle our local producers when the price can in fact be justified.
The final bits of advice from the mind behind InSeason Tours is marketing, marketing, marketing, “Marketing your product these days is just as important as creating it. We’ve become such a visual society thanks to social media that you now HAVE to advertise your product online for it to be seen. Trinidadians are natural storytellers and people love a good story. Persons need to use that skill to promote themselves and stand out from the rest.”
Now it’s time for your feedback. What’s your favourite local brand/product? Has this article given you a greater appreciation for local products? Is there a local entrepreneur that you think should be featured? Let me know!