Growing the Local Food Movement: The Bucks County Foodshed Alliance Tills Fresh Ground with Buy Fresh Buy Local
Jun 30, 2016 08:05AM
When Bucks County Foodshed Alliance (BCFA) launched the Wrightstown Farmers’ Market in 2006, farmers’ markets, with their fresh produce and small-farm-raised meats, were still something of a novelty in the area.
How times have changed in one decade.
Now, BCFA operates the Wrights-town market in community with a half-dozen other farmers’ markets that share a commitment to giving families a wide choice of fresh foods raised on small farms in Bucks or just outside its borders. From what was once a strictly seasonal May-to-Thanksgiving market, Wrightstown now operates year-round with a popular winter “mini-market” two Saturday mornings a month from December through April.
In addition to the farmers’ markets that have popped up everywhere, more individual producers have opened markets or set up farm stands, expanding the offerings for locally sourced produce, meat and dairy. Doylestown Food Market, formerly Doylestown Food Co-op, now runs its borough storefront where farmers can sell—and consumers can buy—exceptional locally produced food year-round. Chain grocery stores are also making an earnest effort to put the harvest of local farms into their coolers and on their shelves.
In the past 10 years, many restaurants and caterers that source ingredients locally have sprung up and become successful, while established venues have changed their menus to reflect the addition of local meats, cheeses, vegetables, fruits and beverages.
Even schools and other institutions in the area are rethinking where their food comes from and, more importantly, what goes into the meals served to students, patients, customers and staffs.
So some might wonder if BCFA, whose early mission was to foster and expand a local, sustainable food supply in Bucks County and to connect producers and consumers, has achieved its goals and is ready to hang up its market basket. Far from it.
Introducing Bucks Buy Fresh Buy Local
“There is still so much to do,” says BCFA board president Gavin Laboski, who points to the community service organization’s newly invigorated mission statement: build a resilient local food system through education and collaboration.
“In our next decade, BCFA will focus on more public education to clarify the most up-to-date data about the benefits of locally produced foods and a strong local food economy.” Their plans include “more partnering and advocacy for young farmers and farming programs. We need greater awareness of the many benefits of fresh food versus food that’s processed, raised in large, petroleum-dependent operations or shipped over great distances to store shelves.”
When BCFA realized it could expand its consumer outreach efforts significantly by collaborating with the respected national Buy Fresh Buy Local program, it established the Bucks County Chapter in 2013 and began offering farmers and other producers BFBL’s proven coordinated marketing program.
The BFBL program increases producers’ viability both through practical marketing assistance and by engaging consumers that appreciate the value of food grown locally and sustainably. The program’s objectives are to:
- increase the percentage of food from local farms and producers that is consumed by local citizens;
- differentiate the local sustainable food system from large conglomerate global systems that are not sustainable for the community or for the planet;
- increase access to healthy, sustainably produced local food for every member of the community;
- strengthen the local farming economy;
- engage everyone in building an economically viable local food system.
“Being a BFBL partner means you are investing in your community. It signifies that you are part of building a unified, vibrant, local food system,” explains BCFA board member Susan Peirson. Beyond the philosophical impact, BFBL partnership directly supports consumer education programs that raise awareness for fresh, local food. Partnership also brings with it considerable marketing resources to help businesses promote themselves to area locavores, from logos and business listings in popular publications to event promotion, networking and more.
The annual cost of membership varies with type of business, with farmer membership beginning at only $80. Individuals are invited to support BFBL as “Vocal Locals” with an annual contribution of $60.
Anne (Cookie) Biggs is a journalist and business communications consultant in Bucks County and an active member of the Bucks County Foodshed Alliance and its board’s Advisory Committee.