How do we start to shift from large-scale, carbon-intensive, agribusiness produce to locally-produced fruits and vegetables in our grocery stores? The Wisconsin legislature thinks it knows how. They recently created a plan to encourage 10% of its annual 20 billion dollar food expenditure to come from regional farmers. $600,000 over the next two years is slated for the development of a public-private partnership that will mainly go to helping local farmers market their products effectively to large supermarket chains.
How will this partnership work? The Wisconsin government intends to hire marketing professionals and provide grants to enable small farmers to develop distribution channels. Apparently, local produce doesn’t automatically “sell itself.”
Small-scale farmers face a number of difficulties that large-scale producers don’t encounter. For one, although local, organic produce may be the most nutrient-rich products in the grocery store, they tend to have a shorter shelf-life and may not look “as pretty” as the other stuff. In addition, small-scale farmers are not always able to produce the required quantity by a specified date to meet grocery store demands.
The specifics of how this program in Wisconsin will actually work has not yet been formulated, but they intend to help local producers consider the needs of grocers.
“You can’t just dump a load of beets in the store parking lot and say, ‘Here, sell these,’ ” said Brandon Scholz, president of the Wisconsin Grocers Association.
A little marketing advice can go a long way, and hopefully, enable distributors and consumers to realize the social and environmental value that comes along with eating regional veggies.