September is National Honey Month and I have the perfect experience to share to celebrate the sweetness of buying local honey.
I went to the North Union Farmers Market on a Saturday morning specifically to get some Ohio Honey. I arrived late and most everything was already sold. But Lucy Welhausen had one last 1½ pound jar filled with the raw golden goodness. The price was $13. I wasn’t sure I had enough cash and asked if she’d take a credit card. She said yes but her reluctance was obvious—clearly it’s a bother she didn’t welcome and of course, the transaction costs her money. While I was counting out singles and coins to see if I could swing it, she suggested an alternative strategy. “Why don’t you just pay me next week.”
We’ve been introduced in the past but I don’t think she recognized me as anything more than perhaps a passingly familiar face. I’m fairly sure she didn’t know my name.
We hadn’t exchanged any personal pleasantries beyond a smile. I was just some shopper standing on the other side of her table. But she offered me this convenience and courtesy, and in doing so infused our transaction with trust and a friendly humanness that has become a rarity in commercial dealings. She wanted us both to go home happy, with minimal hassle for each of us. Frankly, I was flabbergasted.
She had no assurance that I’d return to give her the money owed. And the product she was ready to hand off represented a big investment of her time and effort. She and her husband live in Kirtland and tend hives at various farms and nurseries throughout Lake, Geauga, Ashtabula, and Portage counties. The bees may make the honey but there’s still plenty of work required to gather, extract, package, and sell it. Yet, she was ready to let me walk away with what she had so carefully crafted, confident that I’d return and pay-up.
And then it hit me. This is what it really means to buy local.
I know all about the freshness factor, the benefits of choosing sustainably raised food that travels only fifty miles or less from field to plate, and the economic benefits of supporting small area farmers. But this was something else, a personal exchange in which the quality of the relationship was as important as the quality of the product.
With her simple offer, Lucy Welhausen gave us both a chance to be good and honorable people, to live in a world where such things are normal. When you buy local, I realized, connections are a valuable and valued currency.
Thanks to a few extra quarters extracted from the corners of my shoulder bag, I had enough to pay for my honey. I went home with so much more.
Journalist and author Laura Taxel started writing about local food before it became a trend, a movement or a scene. And she still hasn’t run out of stories to tell or wonderful things to cook and eat that are grown and produced in Northeast Ohio. We’re delighted that she’s agreed share her enthusiasms and her discoveries with a monthly blog here at EdibleCleveland.com.