Harvesting Opportunity through Locally Sourced Food
How Local Food Creates Connection to Community, Economy
The growth of our local food marketplace offers Northeast Indiana the opportunity to both attract and retain talent and increase the economic resilience of our communities.
Northeast Indiana consumers increasingly seek locally sourced foods where they shop and dine. This decision is driven by our choices to:
- Support our local economy,
- Build relationships with local producers,
- Minimize energy use needed to transport and store food,
- Seek trust and transparency in our food,
- Enjoy fresh, seasonal products
This emerging local food culture is an important part of our region’s quality of place. Eating locally sourced food inspires a meaningful connection to our food, our farmers, and the farmland that surrounds us.
This personal attachment to Northeast Indiana helps to attract and retain the talent our local businesses need in this competitive market. A thriving local food culture is a key component of quality of place we need to nurture.
In 2016, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership identified the need to implement an ambitious action plan for strengthening local food networks across Northeast Indiana. Economic development leaders and local food system stakeholders came together under the umbrella of a regional steering committee. In 2017, that committee launched the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network to support the growth of a vibrant local food marketplace.
The Northeast Indiana Local Food Network is a collaboration between Greater Fort Wayne, Wells County Economic Development, Purdue Extension, and local food producers and businesses such as Gunthorp Farms (LaGrange County), Cerulean Restaurants (Kosciusko County) and Bravas (Allen County). Our organization defines local food as food grown, raised, produced, sold and eaten within the 11 counties of Northeast Indiana. Through this definition, we strengthen relationships and multiply economic impacts across our region.
The economic opportunity for our region is substantial.
“Indiana is the 10th largest farm state in the U.S., yet 90 percent of the food Indiana residents eat is sourced outside of the state. In particular, 98% of the fruits and vegetables Hoosiers eat were imported into Indiana.” — Ken Meter, Hoosier Farmer? Emergent Food Systems in Indiana (commissioned by Indiana State Department of Health), 2012
“ 10 percent = $1 billion. If we substituted 10% of our current at-home household food budget with locally grown and produced food, we would generate over a billion dollars of economic activity in Indiana. That’s just $458 per year per household.” — Jodee Ellett, Purdue Extension Local Food Program, 2016
The Northeast Indiana Local Food Network was established to harvest this opportunity. By promoting local food culture, supporting local food entrepreneurship, and strengthening regional networks we can deliver more products from our land to our tables.
The Northeast Indiana Local Food Forum will be held on March 18 at Purdue Fort Wayne. At this day-long event, farmers, entrepreneurs, community leaders, advocates and eaters come together to learn, eat and mingle as we grow our local food economy and celebrate our local food culture. This annual event is hosted by the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network with community partners including Purdue Extension, Parkview Health, Brightpoint and Walnut Hill Catering & Events. The Local Food Forum is a collaboration with many other organizations, businesses and individuals who work together as our region’s Food Council to increase economic opportunity and community wellness across our region.
To learn more or register to attend the Local Food Forum visit NEIfood.org. Can’t attend all day? Join us for our Local Food After Party from 5-7pm. You’ll enjoy interactive demos by local chefs and butchers, samples of their latest local food creations, live music, and a cash bar featuring local brews, wines and kombuchas made from locally sourced ingredients.
- By Janet Katz, Director of the Northeast Indiana Local Food Network