While celebrating Independence Day, you can also celebrate Independents Week.

Local First Utah is celebrating Utah's locally owned and independent businesses June 28-July 5. The group wants to tell Utahns that it's important to "Live Local," which is this year's theme.

This nonprofit group is dedicated to promoting, preserving and protecting the more than 1,500 local, independent businesses throughout Utah.

"When you spend money at a local business, more of it stays in the local economy," said Alison Einerson, Local First's executive director.

Local businesses tend to buy support services, such as marketing, accounting and legal services from local firms, and the owners live in the community.

"Locavore" has become a trendy term for people who choose to eat locally grown or produced foods. Advocates point out food produced locally doesn't need to be shipped hundreds or thousands of miles, and thus is better for the environment.

The recent tomato/salmonella scare also underscores the value of buying local food, Einerson said, "People are really looking toward local sources for safety and with knowing who's growing your food."

But in today's global economy, small businesses are in a David-vs.-Goliath challenge against mass merchandisers and Internet retailers. Once-bustling business districts are losing ground to big-box stores and mega-chains.

"It's more challenging, but awareness is starting to shift," said Einerson. "People are becoming chained-out and are looking for more unique goods and services, and they're tuned into the basic economic facts of why it's important."

Here are Independents Week events:

• A "Live Local Cooking Challenge" takes place Saturday, 9 a.m.-12:30 p.m., at the Downtown Farmers Market at Pioneer Park, 300 South and 300 West. Several local restaurant chefs will see what creations they can make from local ingredients. During the competition, local products and other prizes will be given away.

• Slowtrain Music on 300 South and 300 East will host a sidewalk party with live music and prizes, also on Saturday, noon-5 p.m.

• An updated 2008 Local First Business Directory will be released Saturday, listing more than 1,500 businesses throughout the state. To get a copy, e-mail [email protected] or call 456-1456.

• Local First will be at The People's Market at the International Peace Gardens at Jordan Park, 900 West and 1000 South, Sunday. You'll find local produce, crafts, jewelry and more.

• "Eat Local Tomatoes Workshop" highlights the benefits of gardening and eating local produce. The event is Tuesday, 7 p.m., Wasatch Community Gardens' Grateful Tomato Garden, 800 S. 600 East. Participants can tour the garden and find out how to start one of their own.

• Local First will be at the Park City Farmers Market in The Canyons' Cabriolet parking lot, June 2, noon-7 p.m.

• "Take the Live Local Challenge!" educational panel is July 2, 7 p.m. at Baxter's Cafe, 1615 S. State, to answer questions on how to create a plan for your family on living locally.

• Another round of chef competitions, cooking demos and prize drawings at the Downtown Farmers Market on July 5.

For more information, check localfirst.org.

E-mail: [email protected]