As someone who considered growing vegetables and selling to local markets for a couple years, and plans to go through with it, I have come across numerous problems in how to do it. There regulations I need to learn about and follow are an obstacle, but the main problem is learning who will buy my produce. Should I sell to local restaurants, set up a farm stand or sell another way. I have become convinced that small farmers would benefit from education regarding, in particular, how to market their goods. But I do not limit this education to farmers. I want to incorporate consumers, whether local chefs, market owners or anyone interested in buying local food for whatever reason. It seems I might be on to something. In an article addressing a survey conducted by the University of Nebraska and backed by the USDA, Brad Zumwalt pointed to a disconnect between local farmers and restaurants (Zumwalt). Zumwalt relied heavily on logos, citing statistical evidence to make his points.
In this survey, local chefs were questioned about their buying practices of local foods. Reasons for buying these local foods are the freshness and quality. The chefs appreciate the relationships they develop with the farmers. The chefs’ customers request local food. The last main reason, according to Zumwalt and the study, is that the chefs often find unique ingredients from local farmers (Zumwalt).
Many of these local chefs would buy more, but they face obstacles in doing so. Forty-three percent of chefs cite logistics as a major one. It is difficult to get enough produce delivered at the right time and place. Another thirty-eight percent would order more if they could get it easier. Thirty-three percent of local chefs would buy more local foods if there was a wider variety available. Interestingly, only eleven percent cited seasonality as a reason for not buying more produce. Zumwalt wisely points out that most of the local chefs have a seasonal menu and therefore do not worry about foods that are not in season (Zumwalt).
How then can the local chefs wanting to buy more local food accomplish their goal? Zumwalt suggests creating a database of desired produce and availability of it. According to Zumwalt no database is planned as of now (Zumwalt). I certainly agree that an easily accessible list of available and desired produce will help overcome gaps in supply and demand and simple logistical issues. I would go further. As the article indicated, the chefs greatly appreciate the relationships they develop with the farmers. What better way to help foster these relationships and exchange information about desired produce and its availability than in a seminar or symposium targeting both audiences and addressing these marketing problems? Instead of producers and consumers floundering around trying to find each other, these two groups would meet and learn about markets and marketing and production together. Contacts between the two groups would be established immediately.
Lazere, Donald. Reading and Writing for Civic Literacy: the critical citizen’s guide to argumentative rhetoric. Brief Edition, Boulder, Paradigm Publishers, Print. 2009, 42.
Zumwalt, Brad. “Buying local produce can boost profits for chefs and growers, NU survey shows.” Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society. http://www.nebsusag.org/newsletters/Feat83.htm. Web accessed 10/20/12.