Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Local Food in Covington!

2011 Farmers’ Fair
August 20, 2011 - Covington, Kentucky
This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending The Farmers’ Fair for the day.  Held in Covington, Kentucky, the Farmers’ Fair is a celebration in support of local food culture and sustainable living.  The event is organized as a street fair, a farmers’ market and a fundraiser, all relating to and building up relationships from the farm to the table.  This was the event's third year. 

Marksbury Farms meat selections

I was fortunate to visit with the representatives of Marksbury Farm, Kenny’s Farmhouse Cheese, Sheltowee Farms, featured speaker Daniel Imhoff, Chef Jay Denham of Woodland Pork, Local 127 on Vine Chef Steven Geddes, Carriage House Farm, Relish Restaurant Group’s Justin Dean, and Chef Bob Perry.  I was able to watch a very interesting Ham and Charcuterie cooking demonstration by Chef Jay Denham of Woodland Pork. 
Carrige House Farm booth.

Chef Bob Perry, demo moderator, describes the pluma

More than 50 vendors arrived with all their goods and wares displayed.  There is quite a lot of movement and interest in local food in the Northern Kentucky region!  Several groups worked together and benefited from the proceeds of the event.  They are:  The Central Ohio River Valley Local Food Guide, The Ohio Valley Foodshed Project, Community Farm Alliance, Slow Food Cincinnati, and The Center for Great Neighborhoods of Covington.
It was a very enjoyable event! Keep up with these guys and get ready for next year: www.farmersfair.org
Chef Jay Denham, Meat Curator of Woodland Pork

Written by:  Miranda Hileman, Extension Associate, University of Kentucky Department of Agricultural Economics http://www.ca.uky.edu/AgEcon/Hileman,Miranda

Monday, August 22, 2011

Farm Market Restaurant Pickup

Distribution can be one of the real headaches for making restaurant sales pencil out.  There are real costs tied up in farmer time and vehicle use/wear.  We have seen, however, a number of restaurants are so enthusiastic about sourcing local products, they will go down to the farm market and either pick up a pre-arranged purchase themselves or supplement with what's fresh and interesting available that day.  Farm markets have served as a good central location for buyers and sellers of all sorts to hook up.

Restaurant Pick-up Order at Green City Market - Chicago
Chef doing sampling and talking food with farm market patrons

Most chefs love a fresh food market.  If you already are active at a farm market as a grower, look for ways to get some folks from the restaurant community out for a visit.  Demonstrations can be great promotions for both your farm and the restaurant.

I like what Alfalfa's Retaurant does in Lexington.  Anita Courtney shared these pics - showing how Alfalfa's does what they can to convey their commitment to local and fresh.  It's been a very effective promotion tool for the restaurant located just up the street from the market.  They are now buying year around and buying around $3200 a week in local products.

·         The first is employee, Delaney Gibbs, with the Alfalfa-Farmers Market wagon.  Every Saturday morning she rolls it 2 blocks from the restaurant to the Lexington Farmers Market. 
·         The second is Delaney filling the wagon with eggs from Beth Tillery of Home Pickins’ (Jackson County, and one of our MarketReady alumni!), cheese from Boone Creek Creamery, pasta from Lexington Pasta and fruits and vegetables.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Food Consumer Cooperatives

We have a growing number of food consumer cooperatives in the U.S..  They tend to be relatively small stores, but they are quite active sourcing and promoting local products.  We have our Good Foods Market & Cafe  in Lexington that I mention in our training, but there are nearly 400 of these stores around the country, some of them quite large and all of them firmly committed to their local patron-owners and local producer venbdors.  Ani Katchova and I have been studying the local sourcing strategies of these food coops nationally for several years and have observed a lot of innovative programs introduced that are especially effective working with smaller scale, local producers.

Here's how the coops have helped.....

Farmer-led sampling
This is a great way to build goodwill with the stores AND patrons around the local aspect of your products.  It's also a good way to build the farm estate brand and put that farmer face with the product.  Good Foods does this usually on the first Saturday of each month.  It's a good chance to intereact with consumers, find out what they like, help them understand the value of your product, and get ideas about continuous improvement for all aspects of your product.  The most successful local vendors are regularly involved in sampling somewhere.  If you do this, be prepared to have plenty of supplemental inventory on hand.  Sampling is one of the most effective tools to generate increased inventory turns at the store.  You don't want to get consumers all excited about your product and then be out of stock.

Local Produce Promotion at La Montanita Coop in NM
In-Store Merchandising
Merchandising can include photos, recipes, unique packaging, lables, awards, boxes with the farm name, cross-selling with other complementary products (cross-merchandising), and in-store signage.  Producers in the store for special events is even merchandising.  You can learn a lot just by looking (so says Yogi Berra).  Seeing what other producers are doing that you like in the store will help create a vision for your own merchandising program.  Smaller stores like the GFM can be a lot more flexible with how they work with smaller vendors.  Seasonal displays and trial products can often be worked out.  Category or department managers in the store have a good sense of what has worked and what doesn't and would be among the first folks I would want to talk to for advice about building my merchandising program.

Rolling Fork Farms Merchandsing at Good Foods
Special Owner Events
Most of the successful coops have numerous special events for their owners.  One of my favorites is Dairy Days at the Hanover Coop in New Hampshire.  They will get over 4000 folks coming out to meet the local coops dairy products producers.  Cheeses, chocolate milk, yoghurts, spreads of all types.....quite a production.  I visited the Hanover Coop recently and was greatly impressed with their local sourcing program.  Just have a quick peek at their site to get an idea of how the Hanover Coop takes local promotion to the next level - special events all the time.  Especially skim the "Local Articles" collected from owners, managers, and suppliers to the store.  Inspiring.

Supply Chain Logistics
Coop retail stores are smaller than most grocery chains and have fewer resources to build extensive distribution networks.  But they do have a good record of working with small growers to work out difficult supply logistics.  We tend to see more cooperative delivery among suppliers, vendor-managed inventory, and pre-season production planning within these smaller supplier-buyer networks.  Coops have been working with local suppliers long before "local" became a popular merchandising buzzword.  They don't have the scale typically to set up regional sourcing distribution centers.  A key part of their mission is the engagement of the local producer community in which the owners are also living.  Successful long-term supplier relationships are particularly important here.

Bottom line
I would encourage our KY MarketReady producers to pay a visit to the Good Foods Market & Cafe.  See how they're working with growers.  You might beinterested in more details about the research Ani & I have done with coops nationally as it relates to working with local suppliers.  You can see a recent paper on my home page.  I'll try and get the presentation avialable, too.

I handed out Ann Hopkin's "What We're Looking for from our Local Suppliers" flyer at the MarketReady training.  She's the General Manager of the GFM.  I know she'd love to hear from more KY producers.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Marksbury Farms

Our good friends at Marksbury Farms hosted the Kentucky Ag Council and the Food Systems Innovation crew for a red carpet tour of their market and processing facility.  If you haven't had a chance to see it yet and you're ever in the Danville area, by all means stop by.  These folks are doing a splendid job with small scale processing, farm estate branding, working with regional producers, and working their way into more and more market outlets.

The retail facility is very attractive, carrying a wide assortment of KY Proud products, Marksbury branded items, an attractive deli case, baked breads from a nearby organic farm, and, yes, even Ale-8-One. 

The processing facility was designed with a view toward providing a top flight system for the humane treatment of cattle, pork, and poultry.  Marksbury co-packs for other producers and also sells under their own label.  There is a USDA inspector on site.  Costs per unit are higher for the smaller plant, but MF feels like they can deliver the value their consumers are looking for, particularly in the Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) segment.  You don't always have to be the low-cost supplier focusing on a commodity product to have a successful marketing concept.

The location is somewhat limiting for access to larger urban markets.  MF tries to make up for this with larger, frequent deliveries.  They are selling to a variety of restaurants, grocery retailers, and foodservices. 

Here are just a few pics and a link to their website.  I'd highly encourage you to stop by for a visit - producer or consumer.  Marksbury Farms fills a growing niche.

Looking for Producer Suppliers in Louisville

·    I'm passing this along from Sarah Fritschner - a great look in at some big players in the Louisville foodservice market.  These folks are really looking hard for local sourcing solutions.  See the annoucement and the link below.   Get over there if you can. 
Please join Louisville Farm to Table, Aramark and Jewish and St. Mary’s Healthcare for a workshop designed to provide peer support and industry information to food service workers, dietitians and other healthcare workers in order to support and model a healthy and ecologically sustainable food system, which provides food of naturally high nutritional quality for healthy outcomes.


The invitation can be viewed in more detail at the link here. Please forward to those who you think might be interested in attending. The workshop is free, but registration is required.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Billboard Food Buzz

Rival Food Messages in Lexington KY

This was kind of an interesting observation on Nicholasville Road in Lexington KY this summer.  Wondering how consumers are processing the various food messages.  This photo captures three very interesting messages embraced by consumers today.

1.  Eat Local - The Good Foods Coop and KY Dept of Ag making their pitch to embrace local foods, eat something healthy, support your local producers.  GFC doesn't typically push for billboard ads, so I was impressed to see such a high profile merchandsing effort.

2.  McDonalds - "Crafted for your craving" - is this supposed to communicate a message of 'artisan' fast food targeted to the Fast Food Nation?  Interesting contrast.  Huge sandwich the size of a billboard next to a piece of watermelon.

3.  Notice in the foreground the sign for the European Food Market.  This is about as non-local as you can get.  Having spent a year in Ukraine, I'm actually drawn to this store.  They have things most other grocers won't.  Americans are drawn to variety and unique foods.  Food Channel shows, increased travel, and pretty good restaurants featuring all sorts of ethnic foods open these windows to new culinary experiences.

Just thought this was a fun thing to catch in a picture.  Any thoughts?