In the cover story from last week’s edition of The Cap Times, Lindsay Christians considers the popularity of local produce in the Madison area. She writes,
Over the past decade or so, the word “local” has evolved from simple geographic indicator to marketing gold. Dane Buy Local, a nonprofit that promotes locally owned businesses, had the biggest boost in its nine-year history in 2012, increasing membership by 18 percent to about 700.
Sometimes consumers “don’t realize things are available locally, and in many cases it’s better quality than you can get somewhere else,” said Dane Buy Local President Colin Murray. “It’s more sustainable … and the shipping costs alone” may make local products competitive.
Another selling point is the pastoral romance of the countryside. An artistic rendering of the state of Wisconsin hangs on the wall between the L’Etoile and Graze restaurants showing where the beef and potatoes came from.
Metcalfe’s Market posts “food miles” on its local produce (a problematic measure of sustainability, but a popular one nonetheless). In late summer, the Willy Street Co-Op hosts an “eat local” challenge, restricting eaters to foods from within a 150-mile radius for one month.
Soon, every vendor at the Dane County Farmers’ Market will have a sign that shows where, on a map of Wisconsin, the farmer comes from.
“Local trumps organic for our customers,” said market manager Larry Johnson. “We do have some certified organic growers, we have some who are transitional. But local seems to be important for most of our customers.”