Buy Local and mean it, not just with words.
North Carolina’s motto is profound. It simply states: “To be, rather than to seem.” This certainly applies to a much deeper core of our being, but I’m going to apply this motto to our experience as a supplier to the emerging local food movement. We sell a lot of pure Ohio maple syrup and we have a variety of customers. I notice there are some that (air quotes here) “buy local” and some that truly buy local. I get irritated with national corporate chains of natural food stores that spend more time trying to appear like they are buying local, than actually buying local. I swear our products probably come out of their marketing budget. They treat us like we bother them.
On the flip side, there are a good portion of our customers that truly buy local. And do you know what I’ve noticed? Those customers seem to be thriving. They actually have a belief in what they are doing. Profit for shareholders isn’t the primary focus. Don’t get me wrong, profit is important – but it shouldn’t be the primary focus of a company, especially when your whole marketing foundation is based on supporting local farmers. Stand for something why don’t you?
I want to be clear about three things:
- There is a growing local food movement and people want to know where their food is coming from.
- Family owned farms and businesses are becoming viable thanks to this local food movement.
- Dishonest people are improving profits by appearing to support items #1 and #2.
Granted, I think when a restaurant or grocer decides to truly buy local there is an initial shock. It isn’t cheap and it isn’t easy. Higher cost is only part of the issue. Think about it, there are large corporations in the food industry that squeeze out pennies of cost at every corner. They are very efficient at serving the needs of a chef or grocery buyer. One stop shopping and cheap eggs, meat, cheese, produce – you name it. One call, one order, one bill, one delivery. To quote Brooks from The Shawshank Redemption, “Easy peasy japaneasy.” Large corporations and distributors are in place to serve your every need as a grocery store or chef.
Contrast that with truly buying local. You have a multiple vendors, personalities, capabilities, inconsistent delivery schedules – oh, and throw in seasonal produce – it becomes a whole job in and of itself. Chefs that buy local spend WAY more time calling vendors, chasing down produce, and trying to keep a menu for over a week.
The buy local movement has certainly helped our sales at the maple farm. And we’d like to thanks those that are true to their convictions. In my very first blog, I want to point out Chef Nate Fagnilli of Crosswinds Grille. He truly buys local. Everything is local. He isn’t faking local. If it is not in season, it is not on the menu. Oh, and he needs a raise to cover the additional time he spends chasing me down for firewood or maple syrup.