How You Participate in Local Food

If you aren't familiar with the local food movement, you may not have thought about all the ways you can connect with local food.  With every type of engagement is a unique benefit to your health, food security and our local economy.  These are real dollars that stay and circulate in your community. 

Farmer's Markets


The first thing many people think about when they think local food is the farmers market. We all love the atmosphere and the opportunity to connect directly to the source of our food, the farmers.  Generally held outdoors these markets are a perfect way to interact with a neighborhood and the agricultural heritage of our region at the same time.

While some of our traditional farmer's markets are seasonal their modern cousin, the online farmer's market, provides that same connection year round.  Traditional markets are a beautiful site and experience, but online markets have a few of their own advantages. Customers of online markets find it convenient to create an entire order from multiple farmers, pick it up at a convenient time and location all at once and pay in one transaction for those goods.  Farmer's benefit from a relatively flexible drop-off schedule and not having to be physically present to direct market their products to their customers.

Both market styles have their perks, and customers can enjoy the fact that both facilitate a more direct and transparent relationship with food than the grocery store.   

Farms/On-Farm Retail Markets

Farm_Store_Icon.pngNot surprisingly, farmers spend most of their time on their farms, some of which, are located outside urban areas and in more rural communities. On-farm retail markets allow farmers to reach more customers without having to add the additional overhead costs associated with conventional retail markets. On-farm markets usually serve customers that live nearby, some that are just passing by, or others who have scheduled visits to the farm. The biggest advantages of an on-farm market is that they usually have very flexible schedules, they do not require extra staff to operate, and they lower the barrier between farmers and consumers. Farmers can control when these markets are open and staff them as needed.

On-Farm retail markets increase access to local food in the communities where the farm is located, and can help support other nearby farmers by selling products grown or made by other farmers. These additional sales not only help support other farmers, but also serve as an additional incentive for people to stop by and be able to purchase a variety of local products in one place.

A big part of becoming a successful local farmer is to develop strong relationships with their customer base. Farm tours are a great way for farmers to bring people closer to the food they consume and the story behind it. On-Farm retail markets are great places for farmers to display and feature their products. You can think of them as local food quick-stops or as gift-shops at the end of a tour. Even if a farm does not have an on-farm retail market, you can usually schedule visits or look for opportunities to participate in farm tours and other activities that encourage the public to learn more about small-scale local farm operations.

Community and School Gardens


If you are a lover of the outdoors you can find a way to enjoy yourself while feeding your community.  Community and school gardens take many forms and sizes, and contribute positively to long term food security efforts by producing food and educating citizens about growing it.

Community gardens are often structured in two ways. The first is a communal area in which individuals are able to have their own garden plot or bed. Each person maintains their garden, and enjoys the benefit of being amidst a community of other gardeners. This is also great for avid gardeners living in spaces where they cannot grow food.  The second style of community garden brings a community together to establish and maintain a garden together.  Gardens such as the FC Urban Farm Project bring people together into one big garden, and are a great way to learn and share with people with a similar interest.  Food from these gardens is often split between a cause (food pantry or institutional use), or split up amongst the volunteers.

School gardens are growing in popularity and are often used for educational purposes, but in many cases also contribute to the fresh food offering of school cafeterias.  Some gardens even take products to market to give students opportunities to develop practical business skills.

Get your hands dirty! Find a school garden, or people that want to help support one where you are. If you're starting a garden consider reaching out to others in the directory for support or information.



The Food Service industry is slowly but surely jumping into the local food band wagon. As the public increases their demand for fresher, naturally grown, local ingredients, restaurants and other establishments serving food are seeing the value of becoming more flexible with their menus in order to accommodate seasonal ingredients. Using fresh local ingredients make for better tasting, healthier and more imaginative recipes. In addition, serving local food strengthens the local economy by keeping food dollars in the community, and slowly building the local food infrastructure needed to replace the corporate monopoly big corporations have on the food industry. Next time you go to your favorite local restaurant, be sure to ask if there is any menu items made with local ingredients. 


Food Trucks


Food Trucks are an up and coming trend that has helped lower the barriers between culinary enthusiasts with small start-up operations and customers. The mobility of Food Trucks allows them to serve the local food community without having to go through the expense of establishing a full-blown commercial scale establishment. Food Trucks also have smaller and more flexible menus, making it easier for them to adapt to the changing seasons and support local farmers. Food trucks are almost always locally owned and operated, and they contribute to the uniqueness and vibrancy of a place by simply driving up to a neighborhood, farmers market or special events.


Organizations and Nonprofits supporting the local food movement



There are many community organizations spearheading the cause of local food in their communities. By helping promote local food, educating the public, spreading awareness, facilitating sales, providing training for young farmers or assisting more established ones, these organizations are part of the intangible infrastructure that is necessary to support a local food economy. Each organization will tackle the challenges and opportunities presented by local food in different ways. The efforts can take many shapes, and there is usually more than one way to get involved and help the cause. From local food pantries, to federal programs such as FoodCorps, there is a growing movement building the local food system from the ground up.


Brews & Cocktails 

Spirits_and_Brews_Icon.pngLocal breweries, distilleries and wineries are also part of your community's local food network. Most of them are locally owned and operated, specializing in artisanal beverages. Small batch brews and mixes give alcohol makers the license and flexibility to experiment and innovate. Depending on the availability of ingredients bars may also offer local specials like mojitos made with local mint, daiquiris made with local strawberries, or appetizers made with local ingredients. If you enjoy the occasional drink, be sure to check out your local beer, wine and liquor makers. Facility tours, and samplings, are not uncommon. Next time you walk into a bar, you can ask for a drink made in or with ingredients grown in your own state.


Community Supported Agriculture


CSA_Icon.pngCSAs are an excellent way to support a single farmer, or cooperative of farmers. Customers "subscribe" to receive a package of whatever fresh veggies, and often other goodies, the farm is producing that week. This represents a direct investment in a specific farm and is very meaningful to those growers or coops. Their subscribers provide some up-front 

capital for the season's operations (like seeds!) and guarantee baseline sales.  Customers who support farms in this direct manner enjoy a deep connection with their food and get to know the people that feed them.



Get Engaged!

Now that you've seen all the great ways you can participate in your local food system it's time to connect. If you are in Arkansas explore our interactive guide to all things FRESH near you!  You can also explore the landscape on the map of FRESH locations.

Do you like this post?