Buy Fresh Buy Local: Building Marketing Opportunities for Local Foods in Restaurants and Institutional Food Services

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $108,750.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Rachel Armstrong
REAP Food Group

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Farm Business Management: economic/marketing

    Proposal abstract:

    This project is intended to strengthen the agricultural economy of the seven county “Capital Region” of Wisconsin through development of the institutional market for fresh, fresh-processed, and locally produced products. A “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” outreach campaign will allow the value-added of “fresh” and “local” foodstuffs to be captured by both farmers and institutional food services. This outreach and education effort will result in enhanced patronization of those businesses that are part of the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” program, which in turn will result in enhanced demand for local products. Visible “branding” is the vehicle through which both producers and businesses are able to capture the value-added dimension of consumers’ preferences for fresh, local, and sustainably produced foods. In order to facilitate the extension and enlargement of this market, we will work to facilitate the emergence of brokering mechanisms capable of efficiently connecting local producers to the institutional market. An extensive program of consultation with the farm and food service communities will shape the design and implementation of the outreach campaign and inform facilitation of brokering efforts. Capital Region consumers have clearly evidenced their desire for fresh, local foods. There is demand for both high end organic products and for conventionally produced, but fresh, product. Therefore, our “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” project can develop the institutional market for the full range of producers in the area. Given the level of food awareness among the region’s consumers, rapid growth of this new market is plausible. We anticipate developing a geographically-based model for institutional market development that can be deployed in other places.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The principal objective of this project is to strengthen Wisconsin’s overall agricultural economy through development of a framework for producers to access the institutional market for fresh, fresh-processed, and locally produced agricultural products. Statewide, there are many producers who are now sell principally to local organic, direct, and fresh markets of various kinds but who are looking to expand their production and link to new market opportunities. The seven county “Capital Region” around Madison, Wisconsin, accounts for 16% of the state’s direct market and organic farmers and has a heavy concentration of such producers. The region also contains a rich set of locally owned restaurants, and institutional food service providers, as well as a large population of people who are committed to eating well and sustainably. Although these demographics would appear to be conducive to institutional purchasing of local farm products, that market has yet to be significantly developed. We believe that two factors are acting as constraints. First, although consumers are interested in buying local products, there is now no systematic publicity mechanism that would allow restaurants and food services to let customers know they are sourcing locally. Second, there is now no effective mechanism for efficiently selling products from dispersed, local producers to the set of restaurants, schools, and health care facilities that constitute their prospective market. With this project, we propose to address these two obstacles. The vehicles for this market development will be a “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” public education and outreach campaign directed at consumers and institutional buyers, and concomitant facilitation of product brokering operations capable of efficiently connecting farmers and institutional food service buyers. The work proposed here will build upon the experience REAP has gained in developing other local food initiatives, including its SARE-funded farm-to-school project, “Wisconsin Homegrown Lunch.” Our overall objective is to create a robust institutional market for local, fresh food products. Short and intermediate term outcomes will be realized in three activity areas. First, in “Research and Relationship Building,” project staff will undertake research and organize focus groups to understand the factors influencing purchasing practices in the restaurant and institutional market. Based on this information, we will work to establish effective working relationships among farmers and prospective institutional buyers. Second, through the “Education and Outreach Campaign,” large numbers of consumers will be made aware of the benefits of locally sourced products, and through the labeling/branding program they will be able to identify businesses that offer such foods. This will result in enhanced patronization of those businesses that are part of the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” program, and subsequently benefit farmers who will experience increased demand for their products from participating food service businesses. Third, through “Brokering Mechanism Facilitation,” we will work to make producers and institutional food buyers aware of the options they have for connecting in the marketplace. We will both encourage the expansion of existing brokering activity (e.g., Home Grown Wisconsin Cooperative, Growers Produce Auction) and facilitate the development of emergent specialized brokering enterprises (e.g., GreenLeaf Market LLC). The long-term outcomes will be development of a regional model for expanding the institutional market for locally produced foods and a consumer base that values and patronizes establishments that serve them

    Objectives: Research and Relationship Building
    • Short Term Outcomes: Project staff will attain comprehensive understanding of the constraints and opportunities for increasing purchases of local farm products by restaurants and institutional food services. Farmers and farm groups in the region will become aware of restaurants and institutional food services that are interested in purchasing locally. Restaurateurs and institutional food service buyers will become aware of the farmers, farm groups and brokering mechanisms available to them. Intermediate Term Outcome: Effective purchasing relationships among farmers and farmer groups and institutional buyers (grocers, restaurants, institutional food services) will be established.
    Objectives: Education and Outreach
    • Short Term Outcomes: Restaurants, institutions, farmers and farm groups will find the outreach materials appealing and persuasive and will see the value of becoming part of a campaign. Capital Region consumers will gain awareness about the campaign and about the benefits of supporting “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” establishments. Intermediate Term Outcomes: Two hospitals, twelve restaurants, one government food service provider, and one yniversity food service will commit to purchasing local foods and branding themselves as part of the campaign. Consumer demand for local foods at participating food service establishments will increase.
    Objectives: Brokering Mechanism Facilitation
    • Short Term Outcome: Two hospitals, twelve restaurants, one government food service provider, and one university food service will have the resources, knowledge and skills to implement order/procurement processes, buying from 10 individual farmers and/or 1 farmer cooperative and/or 1 brokering enterprise. Intermediate Term Outcome: Two hospitals, twelve restaurants, one government food service provider, and one University food service will increase orders of local foods from ten individual farmers and/or one farmer cooperatives and/or one brokering enterprise.
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.