Local food programs are popping up all around the first state, and the State of Delaware wants to help its residents find them.
Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Director of Communications and Marketing, Dan Shortridge, says the goal of the Buy Local Guide is to inform the public about farmers’ markets, farm stands and more, in a mobile-friendly format. The organization is currently in the process of updating the guide to include a map and search function.
According to Shortridge, the app came about several years ago as a partnership between DDA and the State Government Information Center. Over the years, DDA has worked to promote local produce and and farmers in print booklets, advertising, and other formats, and the Buy Local Guide will also contribute to that.
“The Buy Local promotional efforts assist growers who sell directly to consumers by raising awareness of their sales outlets through a coordinated marketing campaign,” Shortridge says. “A lot of our growers are small farms that sell at farmers’ markets or at roadside stands, sometimes off the beaten path, and we try to help raise their profile.”
Shortridge says DDA promotes the site on tools that Delawareans can keep in their kitchens year round including recipe cards, refrigerator magnets, cutting boards, measuring cups and vegetable scrubbers.
“We want to put the Buy Local idea in peoples’ heads when they’re in the kitchen preparing dinner or making up shopping lists,” Shortridge says.
In addition to various kitchen advertisements, the organization will be using the Delaware State Fair, held every July, as an opportunity to reach visitors with cooking demonstrations by Delaware farmers, restaurants and agricultural associations.
Shortridge says after looking at the numbers, the demand for local produce is rising. Putting all numbers aside, the group hears regularly from its Delaware farmers that customers are increasingly interested in where their food comes from and in having conversations with farmers about how they grow it.
“That’s been a trend for several years now, and it primarily translates to buying directly from a farmer or knowing that the food in their grocery stores comes from local family arms. People really want that connection with their neighbors and nearby farms, and truly do seek it out. There’s the obvious nutritional value that comes from eating guaranteed fresh produce, but there are also wonderful community bonds that are made when you purchase your groceries directly from a Delaware farmer.”
Shortridge says throughout the state, there are about 24 farmers’ markets and more than 80 farm stands and sales at those establishments have increased year after year.
Although DDA helps Delaware farmers who sell to grocery stores and other retail outlets, the groups main focus is on helping connect farmers with buyers. In an effort to do so, DDA holds a summit each winter to help make connections. The organization invites grocers, restaurateurs, institutional buyers and other retailers to meet Delaware farmers.
In addition to the winter summit, DDA is present at the annual Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit each fall to help Delaware farmers meet buyers interested in their produce from around the country and world.
To learn more about the Buy Local Guide, visit de.gov/buylocal.