An easy mistake for a food business manager to make when planning a menu full of local food is to treat that effort as an afterthought, only to find that they have no clear plan of how to acquire local ingredients and make local a functional part of their business. Similarly, opportunities to source locally can be missed by a food business manager who is unaware they can inquire about opportunities like lower cost bulk seconds during peak season, or that they can keep it simple by purchasing a single local ingredient for a special menu item. Sourcing local food requires intentional effort and a clear understanding of how sourcing local food fits into your goals for your business. This course provides tools and understanding to help you successfully incorporate local food purchasing into your business.
Wrapping It Up and Getting Started
It is worth noting again that sourcing local foods cannot be treated as an afterthought. It is also worth noting again that this relationship with producers is a two-way street. In the same way that you have to avoid thinking that sourcing local foods will be easy, your producers also have to avoid thinking that growing foods for their local market will be easy. On top of this, both parties have to participate in building a relationship. Point being: your local producers are your partners. Supporting them will reap rewards for your business, their business, and your community.
If you’ve completed this course and feel ready to start sourcing local ingredients for your food business, great! Begin slowly by attending a local farmers market and building a relationship with one farmer before adding more, and consider starting your local sourcing with a farmer that already sells to other food businesses. Or, start by sourcing one ingredient for one menu item to get a feel for it. Alternatively, you could start sourcing one item that can be available nearly year-round, such as frozen ground pork or root crops kept in cold storage. The authors of this course have seen too many food business managers rush headlong into sourcing locally, with too little planning, and the result is often failure. Examples include producers overplanting for a chef who doesn’t follow through on a purchase, to a brewery sourcing wheat from a local farm one time while saying they are committed to sourcing from local farms, to a food business manager not able to gradually scale up into steady, achievable local sourcing because they overcommitted and overextended their budget. With diligence, the farm-to-table movement can become reality.
The content of this course is also offered in a digital pdf format as our Local Food Purchasing Guide. https://www.thelandconnection.org/resource/local-food-purchasing-guide/
Funding provided in whole or in part by the Illinois Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Illinois Department of Agriculture. Additional funding provided in whole or in part by the Illinois Farm Bureau.