Promoting local foods

According to the Regional Food System Working Group’s Best Practices Report, an early focus in building a regional food system is to increase awareness of the impact of local foods on the social, economic, environmental, and public health of communities. These promotional activities can be in the form of simple educational activities, public events, fundraisers, presentations, media campaigns and more.

For convincing arguments supporting local foods that everyone can relate to, check out 10 Things to Know About Local Food Systems, or our Economic Impacts resource page. Supporting Local Food System Development in Your Community provides local government officials, community activists, and others with seven steps to help organize and promote the development of a local food system in your community.


Promoting local foods in your community

Schedule a public dialogue, an informal meeting to gauge public interest in local food systems and get the conversation started.

Organize farm tours: people will be excited to visit area farms and learn the personal stories of the farm families that provide their food. Advertize broadly to reach people beyond your core group. You will be surprised at how many kids have never been on a farm before!
Driftless Farm and Food Fest, in Dubuque County.
Taste of Northeast Iowa Farm Crawl.

Start a farmers market if your area doesn’t have one! Check out our Local Food Organizational Toolkit for how to start a local food organization such as a farmers market. And visit the websites of the Iowa Farmers Market Association and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship’s Horticulture and Farmers Market Program.

Create a local food festival or conference, like the Tri-State Local Food Summit in northeast Iowa.

Maintain a local food directory to help advertise local producers and local food buyers (see Buy Fresh Buy Local below), or visit our Selling local food – direct to consumer page.

Interested in purchasing more local foods at your institution? Check out Getting Started with Local Foods at Institutions from Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative.

Want to bring more local foods into your school meal program? See Getting Started with Local Foods at Schools from Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative.

Tips for promoting local food products in a retail location

Reach out to your region’s Buy Fresh Buy Local (BFBL) chapter. BFBL helps marketing local food products, as well as retail stores and restaurants selling local food. Members can register for a fee as a farm or as a business, and will receive a range of services and support to promote their farm or business and generate increased demand for their foods and services.

If you are selling local foods, differentiate it and show it off! You’ll be amazed at how much of an impact it has on your sales. Some marketing techniques include:

  • using different tag colors to differentiate your local product
  • use different shelves to help your customers easily locate local products

Oneota Coop in Decorah has profiles of local growers both in their monthly newsletter, and big prints in the grocery store. Other strategies they have used are bringing in local producers as guests for classes hosted at the coop (“how to use microgreens”, “how to cook beef”, etc.). The coop also organizes farm tours for customers, and hosts a “sample the harvest day” where all local producers in the area can showcase their products.

Resources for marketing local food as a producer

ATTRA has a list of marketing resources at this link. This includes a series of free “Marketing Tip Sheets” (IP394).

Marketing Local Food from the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture is a very comprehensive resource that helps farmers through a step-by-step process of marketing local foods. It covers different direct marketing strategies, intermediate marketing strategies, complete with success stories and important considerations.


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