5 Ways to Source a Local Menu

Bailey Samp, Eat Local, farm-to-table, Farmers Markets, Find Local Food

There are a number of things to celebrate this Spring! Farmers market season is back. Asparagus and rhubarb is in abundance. Farmers are gearing up for another busy season of providing fresh and local produce to the community.

Are you a new restaurant, food truck, or catering business looking for local produce? Are you an existing restaurant looking for ways to simplify the process? Or, maybe you just need a reminder of how important it is to support local farmers! Since there is not a better time to put more local produce on your menu, here are the 5 ways to source local produce for your menu:

5 ways to source local

1.     MI Farm Co-op

This farmer-owned cooperative is northwest Michigan’s source for local food. The cooperative is a win-win for farmers and wholesale buyers in Leelanau, Benzie, and Grand Traverse counties. If you are a restaurant or retail location interested in buying produce direct from local farmers – this is a good place to start! With one invoice and one delivery you can use the cooperative as a central shopping location. The coop has a wide variety of produce, meat, and value added products. Plus, the farmers involved are benefiting by pooling together marketing, delivery, and keeping the food dollars in the farmers pocket.

A few of our favorite farms that provide produce to MI Farm Co-op: 9 Bean Rows, Bardenhagen Berries, Bardenhagen Farms, Bakkers Acres, Lakeview Hill Farm

2.     Oryana Community Co-op

Did you know Oryana offers a wholesale program for restaurants? Many local chefs use the co-op regularly, some on a daily basis to shop the produce, grocery, and bulk section. Restaurants can take advantage of the Special Order Program and get various discounts for large wholesale orders. Next time you are in, visit the Customer Service counter and set up a wholesale account. From there, you can work directly with Oryana’s Produce Manager, Chris Jacobs, and find out what’s in season and what’s expected in from local farmers. It’s a very convenient way to get what you need for your restaurant whenever you need it!

3.     Shop Your Local Farmers Market

The farmers market provides a perfect setting to connect with the local food community, get inspiration, and one of the best ways to source local ingredients. It’s an easy way to make connections with the farmers, find out what’s available, and pick up everything in one stop for your menu that day.

Find a full list of farmers markets start dates and times here!

4.     Direct to the Farmer

After visiting the farmers market, follow up with farmers that you are interested in working with directly. Most farms will offer a wholesale price sheet and deliver weekly to your restaurant, and they might event custom grow an item you are looking for. Creating this personal connection with farms in the area will allow you to have greater flexibility to get products when you need it, and the produce will be freshly harvested just the day before!

Find a full list of Michigan farmers here and make the first call!

5.     Go Straight to the Source

Do you have a favorite bakery or cheese producer in northern Michigan? Similar to buying fresh produce, value-added producers also offer wholesale prices to restaurants. Maybe there is an item you need to complete the perfect dish? Or maybe you want to incorporate more community partners in your restaurant. Use the Taste the Local Difference online database to find a list of specialty producers in your region, and contact them direct for a price sheet and delivery schedule.

Bailey Samp is the Local Food Coordinator for NW Michigan and co-owns Lakeview Hill Farm in Leelanau County with her partner John. Bailey loves making connections between farmers and restaurants, contact her at bailey@localdifference.org for help finding your perfect match!

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