Recently, The Lands at Hillside Farms received a Facebook comment regarding our items being expensive and imported. At first I became defensive because we work so hard to stay true to our mission of local, USA-made, and fair-trade items. Then I realized that, despite our efforts, we never really gave our customers the details for our sourcing efforts. With that said, I apologize and I am writing to share our efforts, and hopefully good news, with you.
Believe it or not, we have more than 275 vendors. Out of this number, 98.91 percent or 271 are within our mission guidelines; we are not satisfied with that figure. The goal is 100 percent. Breaking it down: 40 vendors are within 25 miles of The Lands, 18 others are from Pennsylvania, 199 are USA-made from outside of our state, 10 are fair trade and seven are foreign. Of the seven foreign vendors, four are better than fair trade and three are slated for replacement as soon as we find alternatives.
I think it is fair to say that we are not focused on imports. Here is the hurdle, the big question. How do we compete with box stores on price and provide sustainable products to you, our customer? There are many different views and answers for this question and I can only share my own. I would appreciate yours as well. Here is my answer: I do not measure all costs by dollars. I see cost as having several components including the cost to your wallet, the cost to the environment, the cost to the unemployment rate in our nation, the cost to the families working in poor conditions in countries that do not regulate workplaces as we do, and so on.
I struggle along these lines. Over the years, I simply found myself wanting more “stuff.” Then one day I looked around me and realized that I have more “stuff” in one room of my house than most families across the globe have in total. Seeing this made me shift from volume to quality, and not just physical quality, but moral quality. Good luck buying a fair-trade television. It is not going to happen to the best of my knowledge. But, in my opinion, that does not preclude us from being responsible for the choices we make when there are choices to make.
Not one of us is perfect, and that includes The Lands at Hillside Farms as an organization. Despite this, we are giving it our best shot and we evolve by correcting ourselves on a daily basis. We correct ourselves in the products we sell, in the safety for our customers, in the construction methods we employ. So it is about much more than “things.” It is about sustainable life choices that stretch from things, to culture, to relationships and beyond. It is about caring for the more than 1,100 workers in Bangladesh who died making our clothes, even though you never could have known them.
That is the deal with our retail efforts, as transparent as we can give it. Your suggestions are always welcome.
I hope to see you at the farm as you make sustainable choices.
Chet Mozloom is the executive director at The Lands at Hillside Farms, a historic 412-acre nonprofit educational dairy farm located in Shavertown.