Local food is all the rage, but how do you affordably and conveniently get that food from the local farm to the local table? It’s a question a lot of people are asking — and one we at CLF Ventures (CLFV) are working to answer.
CLFV explored some emerging models that seek to connect small local farms to customers and allow these agricultural businesses to flourish. After all, farmers need to earn a living wage in order to keep growing the food we love to eat. We sent a survey to restaurants to better understand the experience of sourcing food directly from small, local farms and learned a lot about the opportunities and barriers for small farm businesses.
Some small farms have created Restaurant Supported Agriculture (RSA) models that mimic existing Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Generally, restaurants receive one box of food per week that contains substantially more food than a standard CSA share. However, the RSA model is not necessarily an ideal solution for small growers that want to sell food to restaurants. The typical restaurant purchasing model doesn’t match well with the typical small farm sales model. Additional insight from CLFV’s survey of local restaurants is shown in the infographic below.
Restaurants can be a great market for small farms because they are local and create steady demand. Innovative farmers and restaurateurs continue to seek ways to collaborate to their mutual benefit. However, the complexities of restaurant purchasing and the differences in menu selection and food preparation between restaurants complicate these contractual relationships.
Without innovative solutions it is likely that farm-to-restaurant partnerships will remain one-off endeavors rather than a stable market for small, local farms. That would inhibit growth in an area that we sincerely hope — for the sake of our environment, and our communities — will grow.