Would you be interested in knowing where your food came from? and by that, I don’t mean which isle of the supermarket or who manufactured it. Last year, the movement among consumers to “buy local” initiated the farm-to-fork journey. Now, shoppers don’t only want to know its local, but also where it came from.

In an earlier post, I spoke about the trending relationships between chefs and farmers- but now, there is emphasis on the transparency of local sourcing to the consumer. Many shoppers don’t have direct relationship with farmers nor have any knowledge on agriculture, which has led to an increase of mistrust about modern food production. News of contaminated produce and intensively raised livestock, has caused the public to question who is growing their food? and how?

Only in recent years, framers markets have significantly spread throughout different cities and town squares. According to the USDA, there has been a significant increase in
farmers markets since 1994. In 2011, the number reached 7,175, where as in 1994 there were only 1,755. It should be to no ones surprise that farmers markets have continued to rise in popularity. They are an integral part of the urban-farm linkage and are a demand of the growing consumer interest in obtaining fresh products directly from the farm- statistics prove it: between 2010 and 2011 there was a 17 % increase in farmers markets. The reason why farmers markets are so great is well, yes, we all know for the access to locally grown food, but it also gives farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their costumers and build loyalty- another win-win situation. 

Farm sharing has also become an upcoming trend that has people buying local. The most common type of farm share is one in which a customer repays in the spring for weekly bundles of in-season vegetables throughout the season. Each week, a package of vegetables is either delivered to the customer or the customer picks it up at the farm or another predetermined location.

What’s different this year is that we are seeing more farmers get in on the action via social media. A growing number of farmers are bringing their story to the public using blogs and social media sites. According to the American Farm Bureau’s 2011 Young Farmers and Ranchers Survey,”92 percent surveyed reporting using a computer in their farming operation. Nearly all of those surveyed, 98 percent, have access to the Internet…The popular social media site, Facebook, is used by 76 percent of those surveyed who use the Internet. The most popular use of the Internet in the survey is to gather news and agricultural information, with 81 percent turning to it for that use.” Additionally, 10% use Twitter and 12% post YouTube videos. In fact, 77% of those surveyed view this type of communication as an important part of their jobs as farmers -and I believe this number will keep growing. More and more young farmers will begin to use social media and other 21st century tools to tell their story.

In fact, I have a perfect example. Have you ever heard of the “FarmPlate” app? It launched in August 2011 and is known as the “The Yelp” for  the sustainable foods community. FarmPlate is designed to make it easier for Americans to “go local.” Users can search for food, suggest listings and leave reviews Just like Yelp.

FarmPlate wants to make it easier for Americans to look for food sources off the beaten path. On the consumer-side, the Yelp comparison is fairly spot-on: users can search for food, suggest listings, and leave reviews. Most importantly, consumers can view  farmers personalized pages, putting a human face on local and sustainable food producers. In addition, the app also offers specialized accounts to farmers, food artisans and restaurant owners yet another win-win situation.

Transparency, is a key part for consumers. Everyday we are faced with “organic” and “natural” labels at the supermarket, and we can’t tell if it is really healthier or better for the environment than others.  My point is, technology and social media has made significant impacts on our daily lives. I think this year we will see the intersection of local agriculture and the Internet bring interesting innovations how to get people the most trust worthy local ingredients and how to learn more about their food and the farmer that’s in charge of it.