Hi ho the derry-o, the farmer has e-mail

An article in the April issue of Inc. Magazine prompted one more look at that thought-provoking Permuto Discoveries graphic.  We’ve looked at drugstores as a anchors on Main Street and at engaging downtown merchants in e-commerce.  Now we’ll look specifically at the food, wine, and beer category, with about 57 percent of sales being catalog, telephone, and online sales. (That seems high, but consider specialty – higher-priced – food sales, urban grocery deliveries, and online wine auctions.)

But what about the growing locavore movement?  Why would someone shopping locally turn to the Internet?  The answers are probably the same as they are for other products: convenience, product knowledge, and value. Localdirt.com is working to provide these for the community of people for whom place and proximity matters when making food purchases.

The Web site can act as a virtual farmer’s market and a marketing tool for local farmers. And it can be used to support physical farmer’s markets and the growers who sell at them. (Check out Local Dirt’s diagram of how the Web site is used by consumers, producers and farmer’s markets.)

Worth Exploring: Main Street organizations have led the way in promoting downtown farmer’s markets as community convening points and district anchors, connecting residents to local food suppliers. Critical to that effort is helping the farmer reach consumers, sharing the story of their particular farm and product.  A Local Dirt profile could be a marketing and community-building tool to help them do that, both boosting interest in shopping from vendors at the farmer’s market, and  even giving farmers an outlet off-season for some value added non-perishables.  It’s not the only option out there, and your blog or Web site is a good starting point.  It’s worth exploring this season. 

Here are some other examples and tools for promoting and selling local markets and produce to help you start: 

Loudoun Flavor
Frederick County (MD) Virtual Farmers Market
Abingdon Farmers’ Market
Virginia Agriculture and Consumer Services