Let’s plug Clark County’s $6M a day market leakage

Buying locally sourced food puts more dollars into the community’s pocketbook, builds prosperity

Warren Neth

Local food is a critical economic driver for local economies. Every dollar spent on imported food means “leakage” of food dollars outside the local economy – millions of dollars (an estimated $6 million a day, according to government data) that could contribute to community prosperity though local food-related business.

Local ownership of food production matters, because locally-owned businesses spend more of their money regionally than do comparable non-local businesses. Unlike outsider-owned businesses, local businesses tend to have local CEOs, advertise in local media, hire local accountants and attorneys, and reinvest profits in their community. Numerous studies have documented that a dollar spent on a local business typically yields two to four times the “economic multiplier” – the underlying source of income, wealth and jobs – as an equivalent non-local business. Additionally, there is a growing body of evidence that local businesses are particularly good at attracting tourists and future entrepreneurs, promoting creative economies and stimulating charitable contributions.

Introducing Clark County Grown

In a world dominated by billions of dollars worth of marketing selling cheap, flavorless, industrially grown and processed foods, Clark County Grown is a megaphone in the marketplace saying “Buy me! I’m flavor filled, nutrient dense and grown in your community.” It is a stamp of approval that can cut through all the bright large signs and labels that may say LOCAL, but are trucked 500+ miles. Clark County Grown says that buying this product will put dollars in our local economy and a healthier product on your table.

Clark County Grown is a branding and marketing campaign adding value and easing access to farm products grown in Clark County. Launched by Slow Food Southwest Washington, Clark County Grown is as an effort to build market share for our farmers by increasing consumer demand. Clark County Grown has identified a package of product differentiation and marketing strategies, initially targeting farmer’s markets and prepared food providers.

The campaign’s first initiative, the Local Flavor Challenge, is intended to increase farmers market grocery shoppers. Challenge participants who post three photo’s of meals they have made from ingredients purchased at one of Clark County’s farmers markets can claim a $20 gift certificate. As challenge participants share their photos through social media networks, the identity of Clark County Grown is strengthened and ideas on how to eat seasonally from what farmers are bringing in fresh from the field are shared. Next year, Clark County Grown plans to continue the Local Flavor Challenge with lifestyle marketing ads that highlight community leaders eating meals with Clark County Grown ingredients.

“Not having a regional brand like Clark County Grown, has been one of the biggest hurdles for me as a chef that cooks seasonally from soils as close to my restaurant as possible.” – Chef Sebastian Carosi of Fuel Bistro in Ridgefield.

In 2016, Slow Food Southwest Washington is planning to offer the Clark County Grown label to identify restaurants, food carts and caterers serving dishes with Clark County Grown ingredients. During this winter, we are developing the Standards of Use document for the brand and planning a community review of the program.

Seasonal networking

One of the best ways to rebuild the local food economy is by building relationships between farmers, chefs and consumers. During Clark County Grown’s Seasonal Social, held quarterly, we will bring in featured speakers to talk on a critical and timely topic in the local food economy, and have a chef prepare three small plates highlighting local ingredients. The speaker topics will cover distribution, regional branding, processing and access to land.

For more information, visit www.clarkcountygrown.org.

Warren Neth is the executive director of Slow Food Southwest Washington. He has served as a member of the Clark County Food System Council, Clark County Public Health – Healthy Retail Store Advisory Committee and is currently leading the development of the 3 acre business park, Hazel Dell Commons.