SAINT PAUL, Minn. — As traditional local foods and direct-to-consumer markets have become increasingly saturated, a number of farmers and buyers in Minnesota are working together to re-shape the local foods economy. The Land Stewardship Project’s (LSP) Farm Viability Steering Committee is offering an “Innovative Markets Forum” on Thursday, March 7, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., at the East Side Enterprise Center in Saint Paul (804 Margaret St.). The event is free, but RSVPs are appreciated for translation services and planning purposes. To reserve a spot or for more information, contact LSP’s Scott DeMuth at 320-269-2105 or via e-mail, or RSVP at https://landstewardshipproject.org/events/item/1333.
During the forum, LSP is bringing together a panel of farmers and buyers who are working to create innovative ways to gain access to local markets. While farmers have been experiencing a softening in direct-to-consumer sales, the panel will showcase innovative marketing partnerships that have been developed recently and highlight their successes and challenges.
Panelists will include Trent Taher of Taher Food Services; Mike Lenz of Threshing Table Farm; Jack McCann of TC Farm; Sara George, farmer at D & S Gardens, market manager at Wabasha Farmers Market, and vice president of the Minnesota Farmers Market Association; Annelie Livingston-Anderson of Good Turn Farm; Aaron Blyth of Shared Ground Farmers’ Cooperative; and Rodrigo Cala of Cala Farms and farm consultant for the Latino Economic Development Center.
“The local foods system is continuing to evolve. Farmers are willing to produce food for this expanding system. However, the puzzle is how to break down the barriers between buyers and sellers,” said Jody Lenz of Threshing Table Farm. “We hope to give farmers attending a glimpse of some partnerships that are working. By learning from each other, we hope to identify areas where systemic changes benefit everyone in the local foods system.”
Each of the panelists will share their stories about creating innovative approaches to market access. Buyers who play a decision-making role in the supply chain will participate in the panel discussion and farmers will share their experiences of increasing sales beyond direct marketing.
The panel will be followed by a Q & A and opportunities to discuss how we can support emerging marketing opportunities in our region. A light dinner and refreshments will be provided before the Q & A.
“The CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] model was an innovative way to connect consumers and farmers, but we [as farmers and buyers] need to think about what the Amazonification of food means to the local food movement,” said McCann. “Farmers and grocers need to innovate to compete with free two-hour delivery and lean into the attributes that give local growers a competitive edge.”