Stronger you. Stronger community. Stronger economy. Local food can make all that happen.
This guest post is part of the Traverse Magazine series “For Land and Water.” Subscribe for more about environmental preservation and farming in our communities.
Fifteen years ago, the average consumer had no idea where her or his food came from. There was very little understanding of the value that local agriculture brings to the economy, and young people didn’t consider farming a profitable career choice. But, recognizing early on the positive impacts of a strong local food system, it was exactly 15 years ago that Taste the Local Difference was created here in Northwest Michigan to help build the consumer demand for local food.
Today’s vibrant local food scene would be unrecognizable to people in that previous time, but even now only a fraction of the population today routinely purchases locally grown food. The potential for growth is significant and Taste the Local Difference’s efforts are proven examples of developing strength in the local food community by engaging and connecting with more consumers. Without demand, the farmers and producers who supply local food simply cannot thrive.
When the goal is to have more people actively purchasing locally grown food, then more people need to be made aware of the benefits it can bring—like strengthening the local economy, connecting people to one another, and improving community health. Once introduced to these benefits and the delicious taste of freshly harvested produce, consumers will need resources to help them find local food and farms in the area. These are the types of resources that Taste the Local Difference provides.
Through consumer education, developing free community food system resources, and providing affordable marketing services, Taste the Local Difference improves the success and resiliency of Michigan’s farms and food businesses. Today, Taste the Local Difference is growing statewide, mapping the distinct community food systems that exist throughout Michigan and making connections between farmers and buyers.
Connection itself is multi-dimensional, so when it’s said that Taste the Local Difference is “making connections” this involves several different meanings of the word. By sharing stories, we help consumers relate to local farmers and food producers on a personal level. Collecting data and ensuring transparency means consumers can choose foods that tie in with their values, like a farm’s growing practices or how many miles away means local to them. The Taste the Local Difference brand, resources, and marketing materials help consumers find local food in their community. And because Taste the Local Difference is constantly building relationships throughout the food system, this network means you’re only one quick introduction away from that perfect local product you’re after.
Rallying a new network of passionate and invested consumers is what we’re up to next. So if you’re committed to local food, love eating well, and support your community, then this is for you.
Like everything at Taste the Local Difference, developing a supportive network starts with a commitment to buying local. If you can pledge to spend at least $10 a week on local food, Taste the Local Difference invites you to become a Local Food Enthusiast and reap the benefits. You’ll receive a set of awesome local food gifts, invitations to cocktail hours and meet-ups with other local food enthusiasts in your region, and we’ll keep you up to date on all the best local food and farming stories.
As a consumer, this is your chance to support the work that Taste the Local Difference has done in our community for 15 years. It is the work we continue to do here in Northwest Michigan and now throughout the state.
Learn more at localdifference.org/ieatlocal, and join us to strengthen our community by eating well.
Tricia Phelps is CEO of Taste the Local Difference, a social enterprise of the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities.