There is something nostalgic about driving down a winding country road and stumbling across a roadside produce stand. Seeing the rows of crops behind the boxes of tomatoes is almost as enjoyable as knowing that the person selling you the produce was the person who tilled the soil. There is a connection there, between the grower and the buyer, that can form a shared bond.
In a tech-savvy world, when shoppers are looking for instant ordering and same-day delivery, why is there is an appeal to buy local? Many consumers prefer to buy their food from a farmer they know, and the trend for farmer’s market offerings has grown to include meat, dairy and other food products.
Why buy local?
Most of the time, locally sourced products are grown using fewer pesticides and chemicals. Because they are focused on quality, rather than quantity, they have greater incentive to grow health-conscious foods. This may mean livestock farmers avoid using hormones and preservatives, and farmers may use organic methods for crop development. As a result, their foods are healthier to consume.
Improved nutrition. The lack of chemicals used to produce locally grown food can improve its nutritional value. Because the food doesn’t have to travel as far, it can stay on the plant longer. Fewer preservatives are needed since the food will be consumed in a quicker time frame.
Locally grown products are better for the environment in several ways. The reduced number of chemicals being added to the soil and water run-off does less damage to the quality of the earth.
Fewer food miles. Because the food is grown and sold within a smaller radius, transporting the products takes less fuel and has a lower impact on air quality and road conditions. Less packaging is used, which reduces the number of oil products being created, adding fewer plastics to landfills.
Locally sourced products are beneficial to the community. Supporting a local farmer helps keep money in the local community. Click To Tweet It provides support for local families and enables them to provide jobs to the community. Without the distribution and transportation costs of larger companies, local farmers are able to keep more of the profits. This enables them to invest more in their farm, expanding their product line and hiring more workers.
How can retailers support this trend?
Retailers can take part in the trend for locally sourced products by expanding their network of suppliers. Beginning relationships with smaller farms and seeking out artisans who use locally sourced products can bring variety to your product line. Creating a “shop local” section of your store is an easy way to highlight the offerings from local farms. Provide ideas for using the seasonal items available, with cooking demonstrations and recipes at the point of purchase for customers.
Studies have shown that customers are willing to pay more for locally sourced products. The increased health benefits, improved taste and community aspect of the buying process are all added benefits to “knowing” the farmer. In many ways, shopping local helps to connect consumers to the faces behind the products. This bond is sorely lacking in the fast-paced world of e-commerce. As technology becomes more integrated into our lives, consumers will continue to seek out these hands-on interactions.
Sarab Hans is President of Hans Dairy