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Making Valuable Connections 

Imagine for a moment, a fresh Taste the Local Difference Local Food Coordinator, newly tasked with making new connections in their region to locally grown and produced foods. It’s a simple concept, sure, but take my region for example, the Upper Peninsula, over 16,000 square miles, dotted with numerous communities all accessing food in different ways. Okay, so maybe it’s not so simple, but it’s what the Local Food Coordinators at TLD love to do, and we enthusiastically accept the challenge. 

Personally, it didn’t take more than a few months to feel comfortable connecting people with the UP’s local food and farms. Plus, every spring the hard work pays off with a beautiful new Local Food Guide to help me educate consumers on the farms and the businesses supporting them in their area. Even with all that, making connections can still be hard.

Now with social distancing measures, we are seeing partners and producers adjust and adapt. The new influx of online stores has made those sometimes difficult connections to folks in food and farming easier, and even more valuable than ever. As a coordinator I can provide a farm name and phone number, but now even more easily send you to their webstore so you can place an order.  

As many of our farm partners add direct-to-consumer ordering options, we also are seeing a few farmers markets going online as well. TLD partnered with the Sara Hardy Farmers Market in Traverse City, helping them go live in less than two weeks. Their community response was incredible, with over 300 orders and $16,000 in sales in the first 3 days! You’ll see others following their lead as the spring continues. 

Online plant-sale forms, virtual farm stores and farmers markets, increased CSA shares – our partners are doing all they can to make sure consumers can access fresh, nutritious and delicious local food options. As they pivot, so does TLD. You may have seen we now feature a “Shop Now” icon on our Online Food & Farm Directory, allowing shoppers to instantly be connected to online stores if the business has one available. Plus, we’re dedicated to helping our partners get online as easily as possible, if you’re a business owner, check out how we can help here!

All things considered, the change to online isn’t easy, and the harsh series of events that brought us here must be acknowledged, as we all continue to see it affect our lives. With that is also a new thirst for local, and our directory allows us to make valuable connections and maybe now, influence instant sales. So on behalf of someone who has ordered from a few online farm stores in the last month – thank you to all the folks putting in the long hours to get these sites live and the work that continually goes in managing those systems, we appreciate you! 

Alright Michigan local food consumers, happy shopping!

Alex Palzewicz is the Market Manager for the U.P. Food Exchange Wholesale Online Marketplace and also excited to be offering U.P. producers wholesale markets options for the products! Learn more here

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