2Bits: Local food sourcing expert talks food sourcing &…
The challenges of finding and buying from small local farmers and the future of retail food buying
by guest contributor,
Manager of Clovers Natural Market, Columbia, MO, and Farmer
Do food product labeling and creative marketing content give consumers the transparency they want when they buy food? Or is it information overload?
If you’re a food producer or consumer who frequently purchases locally-produced food, or if you cook meals at home, read labels and think about the health effects of ingredients, you know how quickly the food industry changes.
Between increased stratification of production methods, an overwhelming array of purchasing options for consumers, and ever-changing notions of dietary health, it’s difficult to make simple decisions about what to eat and where to get it!
You’re probably also aware of recent developments in the food industry that have the potential to dramatically change the way most consumers get their food.
Amazon’s buyout of Whole Foods and its plans for expanding store automation and online food purchasing have many small farmers and retailers wondering if the evolution of our foodscape will squeeze us out.
Are these visible, high-tech brand stories real?
Companies like Crowd Cow are offering you the illusion of “connectedness” to your food by shipping it across the country to your door with a description enclosed of a farm you’ll never see and a farmer you’ll never meet.
As both a pastured meat producer and independent natural foods store manager, our growing disconnect from the sources of our food affects me where I live.
Conversations with customers and friends plays a critical role in my decision-making process.
I talk with a lot of customers at Clovers Natural Market in Columbia, Missouri. I’m always being educated about the latest dietary trends, new cautionary information about old ingredients, production practices and their intersections with legislative politics and where to find certain obscure products locally.
I also have a number of small farmer friends with whom I hash out the flip side of those subjects:
- What do people want?
- Why do they consider this or that production practice to be undesirable?
- How can I find people to sell to who’ll appreciate how I’m doing things and not balk at my lack of an expensive certification?
The importance of human interaction is underrated!
All these conversations impact my daily decisions of what to bring into the store and what to do on my family farm, Brush & Trouble Farm.
I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to talk with people about how they want to feed their families and order products for the shelf that meet their needs.
I also enjoy being able to look new or prospective meat customers in the eye and assure them that I’m raising livestock as humanely and sustainably as I can and with a view toward optimizing nutrition for them and their families.
None of that would be possible without simple human interaction.
How can we successfully preserve the human connections we have in a brick and mortar grocery store, transparent food systems, local farms, and pervasiveness of the internet?
At a time when more of life seems to be getting lived on the internet all the time and more business conducted in the digital sphere, is it viable to maintain a direct-to-consumer approach to marketing farm products?
Will the brick and mortar retail grocery store be made obsolete by increased dependency on doorstep delivery?
To my mind, 2BuyAg represents a glimmer of hope that local food can be bought and sold online while preserving direct contact between producer and consumer, or producer and retail purveyor.
The click-to-purchase transaction format offers convenience, but with the possibility of correspondence and even personal delivery it doesn’t have to be so impersonal.
The success of this middle way approach, however, is going to depend on e-commerce savvy consumers refusing to settle for vague ideas about their sources of food and committing to support of their local food sources.
Please join 2BuyAg today and help us keep local food buying strong and relevant!