August 2016
Simple Times

Made in the USA???

"Humpfgh ..." the man made a half-gurgling, half-grunting sound as he raked his hands across the jewelry displayed on an old quilt on a stout table.

"More junk made in China," he exclaimed, as he grumbled some more.

As I rushed over to untangle the mass of necklaces and bracelets he had just jumbled, I explained in my best and, hopefully, CALMEST storekeeper voice, "No, nothing in this store is made in China or anywhere else outside the United States ... and most is made as locally as possible."

The necklaces he’d carelessly tossed across the table are individually handmade from horseshoe nails by a retiree in the nearby small town of Allgood.

The colorful polished rock items are also handmade by a woman patriot from Etowah County.

But I explained as I almost backed him into a corner, the majority of the items are made by me on this farm from local items grown or produced right here.

No, I don’t believe that anytime soon I’ll be getting the ingredients for my honeysuckle jelly or my goat milk soap from anywhere any further than my backyard.

"Just thought you were a junk store like everybody else," he said as he left with no apology.

As I sat on my little stool behind my handmade checkout counter, I could only shake my head.

You can preach the benefits of global economy all you want, but in this little homesteader’s eyes we’ve got to stop before it gets any worse! My disgruntled customer had made a point. Too many stores he’d likely been in were just filled with junk from China! And it’s up to us to stop it before it gets any worse!

To me, nothing good can possibly come from growing meat in the United States, having it processed OVERSEAS and then shipping it back to the United States for our families to eat. Somehow the thought of my meal being more well-traveled than I am does not suit me.

But it’s not just that, we must start examining everything we buy!

A needle breaks in two pieces with one pricking my finger as I’m on the last row of a baby quilt. As I reach to get a new needle, the letters "Made in China" glow in gold and mock me from the pink plastic case.

From now on I’m going to be ordering my wooden clothespins from Lehman’s Non Electric in Ohio! Their clothespins are handmade by the Amish. The ones that just sprang open on my clothesline letting the sheets drag in the dirt brightly said, "Made in Taiwan."

 

Tammy Hurd and her family at Munchkins Rebel Homestead have brought their expertise and some of their recipes from Maine to combine with good Southern ones to provide goodies such as bagels, homemade bread AND farm-fresh, farm-raised chicken. They sell at local farmers markets, directly from their farm near the Blount-St. Clair County line and can be reached through Facebook.

There’s a two-piece screwdriver in the drawer in my office. It’s not supposed to be in two pieces, but as I tried to tighten the FIRST screw on a hinged door of my chicken coop, on the FIRST screw, the screwdriver broke neatly in two ... not made on this continent.

In my office, there’s also an entire drawer of flashlights that will neither flash nor light. All made outside the United States!

And don’t even get me started about blue jeans! If you’re like me and you actually live in jeans, you better get on the internet and hunt those actually made in the USA or you may get arrested for indecent exposure once you bend over a time or two! My late husband and, now, my son find that practically every pair of jeans or pants in general will split right in the crotch if they squat down to work.

Is it that they don’t know how to sew a seam or is the thread just spider-web thin?

We don’t wear that denim just to look like all the wannabe farmers and cowboys ... we actually do the work and we expect the jeans to hang in there in one piece right along with us!

An article in USA TODAY notes that every American yearly eats an average of 260 pounds of imported food.

So if we can’t trust folks to make a screwdriver that will hold itself together for more than one use or a pair of jeans you can actually bend in, can we really trust what we’re eating?

A rash of articles on the internet notes there are simply not enough Department of Agriculture or USDA inspectors to inspect all the food that is imported.

So we go from the simply inconvenient such as a broken needle to the downright wasteful to the DANGEROUS – such as Chinese drywall (a friend of mine is still struggling to fix all the economic and health issues that caused) – to deadly dog food, to sickening baby formula.

Shagbark hickory syrup and dandelion jelly (above) are just two of the goodies sold by Bailey’s Best Farm between Snead and Oneonta. You can find them on Facebook in your quest to Buy Local!

 

But I see good signs.

Just down my road and on each side of our county from me are young farm families legally selling organic chicken and fresh-from-the-farm pork along with farm-fresh eggs and even hickory bark syrup!

Local farmers markets have EXPLODED in the past few years with almost every community having close access to at least one. (There was even a fully stocked farmers market every Tuesday in one of the huge medical buildings in Birmingham where my late husband traveled regularly for treatment!)

And how many folks do you know who have started gardening again? You can know what is in or been sprayed on your food if you grow it yourself OR if you KNOW the farmer personally displaying it for sale in that wicker basket!

We’ve done so much to mess up this country and to ourselves with often a generous amount of help from our own government. But all is not lost!

A friend’s husband comes from four generations of cabinetmakers. He will custom make cabinets for your kitchen or bathroom for about the same or a little more than you’d pay to get foreign-made cabinets … and the ones he makes won’t be made of fiberboard – they will last a lifetime!

Or if you don’t know anybody personally, check out the furniture made in many Amish or Mennonite communities around the country!

Some people have asked me why I like their products so much. No, I don’t share all their religious beliefs and you have to watch for unscrupulous people even there. But if you find an Amish or Mennonite family who creates with wood rather than builds, you’ll likely never look inside a big store again!

And Amish foods that are Department of Ag approved are the same way – no weird ingredients you can’t pronounce ... just old-fashioned goodness!

I hope I educated my recent customer about the Buy Fresh, Buy Local movement before he grumbled out to his car.

We have to check labels. Buy USA made if at all possible. Support your LOCAL farmers and local businesses that sell USA made goods.

It’s like that old saying regarding eating an elephant ... it may look overwhelming if we look at the overall picture, but even that entire elephant can be eaten if we do it one bite at a time!

 

Suzy Lowry Geno is a freelance writer who lives on a small Blount County homestead and can be reached by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..