Maple sugar. Milk. Apple cider. Wood from ash trees. Whole grain bread. Opera fudge. Fasnachts.

At Swatara Coffee Co., these are just a few of the hyperlocal products and ingredients we proudly use. My husband and I dreamed of opening Swatara Coffee Co. for six years—while John was still serving in the Navy. We wanted to create the coffee shop we would want to visit; somewhere friendly, committed to high-quality products, and uniquely local.

When John separated from the Navy, we were able to begin creating that dream in earnest. We came back home to Lebanon County and we set out to find as many of the best local products as possible to feature in our shop.

The 2008 Farm Act defines local products as those that are grown or produced no more than 400 miles away. For a little perspective, that means that Durham, North Carolina (399 miles away) is technically considered local. So is Boston, Massachusetts (366 miles away).

There’s no official definition of what hyperlocal means, so every organization is free to determine what it is for them. For Swatara Coffee Co., we consider hyperlocal products to be anything produced or grown within Lebanon County and the counties that border us.

We believe that being a good small business starts first with being a good neighbor—knowing what is available in our area and doing all we can to support the amazing things that are happening. Here’s why we source as much as we can hyperlocally:

1. It strengthens our local economy.

Spending money in our area keeps money in our area. It means that our neighbors can keep their businesses and farms operating, pay their bills, and do what they love to do as a hobby or their full-time job. We take the opportunity to buy maple syrup from Allison’s Maple Syrup Farm just two miles up the road in Ono instead of from other states or countries.

2. It highlights local excellence.

We absolutely love shining a light on the amazing things folks are making, growing, and producing in this area. There are a lot of movers and shakers doing unique and interesting things. Take Sandi’s Breads, for example. We source their whole grain, artisanal loaves for our sandwiches because they care about every ingredient they bake into their breads. Take a bite: you can tell.

3. It keeps our environment cleaner.

Sourcing hyperlocal products produces less waste in packaging and in fuel consumption. Instead of journeys of hundreds of miles on pallets wrapped in plastic wrapped in more plastic from farms to warehouses to other warehouses to our front door, many of our products travel just down the street or across the county and into the coffee shop. When Patches Family Creamery makes their weekly delivery to Swatara Coffee Co., the milk has made a less-than 10-mile trip from cow to coffee. Reducing the environmental impact of as many products as we can means that our shop’s carbon and waste footprint is a little smaller, and it means the air and water is a little healthier.

4. It generates pride in our area.

There are few things that make us happier than when a coffee shop customer discovers our hyperlocal partners because they’ve tasted or seen something at SCC. There’s something exciting about directing someone to a small business, like Long Acre Hollow, the woodshop just a few blocks away from us who used locally harvested ash trees and crafted all of our tabletops, countertops, and shelving.