local food sourcing
At the root of Louisville, Kentucky’s ongoing and successful local food system implementation, which has generated considerable community and economic capital, is data.
A principal objective of Mayor Greg Fischer’s Six-Year Strategic Plan outlined in 2012-2013 to create new jobs and stimulate the economic development, is to develop ways to promote the city’s local food economy. Toward this end, three studies were conducted by the Local Food Economy Work Group, made up of elected officials from six counties and two cities, to gauge the needs of farmers and consumers pertaining to demand for local foods.
One of the studies showed that of Louisville’s $2 billion in food purchases a year, only $300,000 was going toward local food, and consumers and commercial buyers wanted to at least double that amount if opportunities were available. Another study highlighted the desire of local farmers to reach larger markets.
If not for Mark Lowry and Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens, “The Farm,” rather than providing inmates with meaningful work and the Orange County Food Bank with a weekly abundance of fresh produce, would be nothing more than the nickname for the James A. Musick Facility jail in Irvine, California.
It was at an Orange County Sheriff’s Department volunteer recognition event where Lowry, the director of the Orange County Food Bank, first learned of the jail farm’s history. From 1963 until its closure during the economic downturn of 2008-2009, the inmate operated farm had grown produce and maintained a livestock operation.
When Tessa Edick was a young girl, she spent visits to her grandmother’s dairy farm in upstate New York pining over a big city life in which she would have her own elegant law office and manicured, dirt-free fingernails.
“Honestly, we were broke, and it was just smelly and embarrassing,” she says. “I wanted glamor and success. But a funny thing called life happened.”
As she grew into an ambitious communications professional, Edick found an unlikely synergy between her early farm experiences and her love of boutique culture. Beginning with her own label of specialty jarred sauces–Sauces N’ Love—that ended up selling in 4,000 stores nationally within its first five years, Edick continued to carve out a niche for herself as a food product development pro. She created lines for Tom Colicchio, Todd English, and several major retail companies, and in 2010 established her own consulting and development company called Culinary Partnership that offers everything from co-packing to TV production services.
Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa is dedicated to serving its patients, staff, and visitors the best food Iowa has to offer. And thanks to a few handfuls of local, Iowa farms, the hospital has been able to maintain that standard.
One of the companies that helps Mercy Medical obtain fresh produce and goods is Iowa Choice Harvest. The Marshalltown, Iowa company has partnered with the hospital since 2015. It is dedicated to helping farms across Iowa find customers and co-processes and co-packs for existing and start-up businesses in the Midwest.
“We began planning in 2006 and began production in 2013,” says Sung Hee Grittmann, sales coordinator for Iowa Choice Harvest. “Iowa Choice Harvest is the brainchild of an innovative group of farmers who are passionate about establishing a viable local food system while simultaneously supporting Iowa farmers and creating new economies.
Western Michigan is incredibly rich in the agricultural products it provides, but matching this great food with local wholesale buyers can still pose a challenge.
So food aficionado Jerry Adams came up with West Michigan FarmLink, an online marketplace in Grand Rapids that connects growers to chefs and other institutional end-users of foodstuffs.
It was during a trip to a farmers’ market that Adams first got the idea for an organization that links farmers to restaurants and other foodservice institutions. Despite his affinity for farmers’ markets, he saw areas in which they were lacking.