This is Part 2 of a written and expanded version of my brief remarks to Rocket Hatch Thursday July 24, 2014, on Building Community Value in Local Food Systems. Part I is here.
The health of Huntsville’s local food economy has been below average for some time, but in the past few years, we’ve made a lot of progress. We have more farmer’s market’s, more restaurants serving local food when they can, a whole bevy of microbreweries producing high quality beer, a lot of new bakers (including a 16 year old girl), and you can’t rub two food trucks in this town together now without spawning a third.
One new company in town, Piper & Leaf, charges a very premium price for their iced tea and has people lining up to buy it — and then they brag about it on social media afterwards! This is an example of a company that has done a great job instilling in potential consumers a sense of value in their product. That they are also pleasant, community-minded folks is just gravy on top.
But your average consumer — almost all of them, that is — hasn’t changed their buying habits. There is a mountain of cultural weight pushing down on food entrepreneurs, unthinkingly taking food for granted and expecting it to be cheap and immediate. Every entrepreneur shouldn’t have to climb that mountain alone. It’s hard enough showing YOUR product has value without having to work against a whole food system. It’s a lot to ask that a 16 year old girl take on Keebler’s multi-million dollar ad budget because she wasn’t to make money selling cookies.
As a community, we need to work together to foster a cultural sense of value in our local food system, because if we don’t do it, who will?