The Effectiveness of Farm-to-Chef Marketing of Local Foods: An Empirical Assessment from Columbia County, NY
Schmit, Todd M.; Lucke, Anne; Hadcock, Stephen E.
Growing consumer demand for locally-grown products is prompting substantial changes in food supply chains, including end-use market developments with restaurants and food service providers. Direct interactions and marketing of farm products to local restaurants is currently seen as a prime opportunity for both increased farm sales and broadened consumer exposure to local farming operations. In addition, selling to restaurants can give producers insight into current market trends and changing consumer demands for food products and the attributes that they possess (Pepinsky and Thilmany 2004). Columbia County Bounty In recognition of these growing consumer demand segments, farmers and restaurants in Columbia County have been working together through various farm-to-chef (F2C) organized initiatives since 2006. These initiatives were formalized through the creation of Columbia County Bounty (CCB) in 2007, and facilitated by Cornell Cooperative Extension, Hudson Valley Agricultural Development Corporation, and Columbia County Chamber of Commerce. Oftentimes, a coordinated group of producers cooperatively marketing their products through various restaurants is necessary to meet seasonal and yearround demands by restaurants for local food ingredients – CCB helps provide such services. Today, a six-member CCB board of directors, along with an executive committee of municipal and business organization members, coordinates CCB activities ranging from farm tours, a searchable online database of participating farmers and restaurants, participation in local community events, and hosting an annual Taste of Columbia County banquet. The mission of the organization is to promote and support networking connections between local agricultural producers and culinary businesses, and to educate the community about the preservation of local farms through the purchase and use of local and regional sustainable foods and products.1 Similar examples of these types of efforts across the country include Home Grown Wisconsin (Lawless 2000), Red Tomato in the Northeast U.S. (Royzyne 2000), Practical Farmers of Iowa (Huber 2002), and Colorado Crop to Cuisine in Fort Collins (Thilmany 2004). Closer to home examples include organizations such as CNY Bounty (Chenango and Madison counties) and Finger Lakes Culinary Bounty. With increased interest in the use of local food ingredients in area restaurants, it is important to better understand the development and long-run viability of F2C relationships, the impact on farm sales and restaurant performance, and what barriers may be limiting sales expansion in this growing market channel. The purpose of this bulletin is to describe the results of a project conducted in Columbia County in summer 2009 to examine these issues.