Local Food Demand Grows, But Is A Tall Order For Restaurants, Farmers

Local Food Demand Grows, But Is A Tall Order For Restaurants, Farmers

6:00am Jul 03, 2015
Workers at the fields at Rudd Farm.
Julie Knight, Triad Business Journal

More than ever, Americans are looking for locally sourced food. The farm-to-table movement is also changing the expectations for restaurants. But the cost can come at a premium for some businesses, who are still dealing with the challenges that serving local food can present. For this week's business report, Laura Mazurak discusses some of the barriers in place and the possible opportunities as this industry grows. 

In her story for the Triad Business Journal, Mazurak reports that the trend has been building for decades. Direct food sales tripled between 1992-2007. But getting the food from the farm and into the kitchen remains problematic.

"Distribution is still the number one challenge. Farmers said this, restaurant owners and chefs said this," says Mazurak. "Number two, is menu planning. When you're planning a menu for a set period of time, you need to know exactly what food you'll have because you're guaranteeing that to the diner."

She adds that restaurants that have rotating, seasonal menus are better equipped to source local food. Mazurak says in addition to having more food distributors, that relationship building is key to a stronger market for locally sourced food. As an example, she cites food hubs, which are local organizations that foster exchanges and collaboration between farmers and restaurants. 

"So, if you have X amount of sweet potatoes and I have X amount, we can combine then, and then a local restaurant can stop by the food hub and pick up as many sweet potatoes as they need," says Mazurak. 

She believes solutions include more intermediary resources and a broader distribution base.

"There's a lot of opportunity here. It's untapped. There's so much space for someone who wants to step in and fill that role."

The Business Report on 88.5 WFDD is a partnership with the Triad Business Journal.

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