The Long Tail and Local food

I’m just back from vacation, and among the books I read was “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson. I was struck by how clearly local food fits within the Long Tail concept. I’ll write a more detailed and thoughtful piece soon, but it made me think that the way to boost consumption of local produce and artisanal food products is by providing the data aggregation of the fresh food that are out there. This is a highly, highly fragmented market, and therefore one crying out for some navigational help.

How does one find local foods now? Probably the best model is the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) template. Dependable, recurring business for the farmer, and assurance of weekly supplies for the consumer. But limited in choice. Alternatively, one can walk the farmer’s markets or cruise the fruit stands, but this takes time, and even within a given market it can be hard to compare offerings. Many small farmers can’t participate in all the markets for a region, and some wonderful market gardeners might not reach any. What about Aunt Tillie’s groaning peach tree or sprawling heirloom tomatoes? Some areas publish excellent guides to local farms, but these are published infrequently.

What if I want to know what’s available today?

What we need is something like eBay or Craigslist for local produce. To be sure, some can be found on those sites, but I really believe that this calls for a site (or network of sites) that is uniquely targetted on this niche. A virtual farmer’s market where growers large or small can post their day’s crops and buyers can search for what they want, in addition to seeing all the season’s offerings. In depth profiles of participating farms can add a social networking element. Where internet companies used to talk of Business to Consumer (B2C), the time has come for Farm to consumer (f2c).

In short, the recipe is one part Craigslist, one part eBay, a dash of myspace, and a healthy serving of local produce. Blend till smooth.

More to follow.

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