Farmers must focus more on communicating the story of sustainable agriculture, if they want consumers to compensate them for their conservation efforts, The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports.
A panel of agriculture marketing experts at Cabrillo College said if consumers know exactly where their food comes from, and that it is fresher and tastes better because it was produced by eco-friendly operations, then they are more likely to buy it.
Cost is, of course, another factor in what consumers buy (especially during a downturn), but locally grown food can be less expensive due to lower shipping costs and higher gas prices.
“With growing attention given to sustainability, if this message is not communicated, negative messages are likely to prevail,” according to panelist Roberta Cook, a marketing specialist at UC Davis.
The fear for farmers raised by the panel is that government regulators may allow retailers like Wal-Mart to brand their food as locally grown.
Wal-Mart has already received a slap on the wrist from the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based organic group, which declared victory in May of 2007 in its battle against Wal-Mart over the mislabeling of organic food products.
Recent articles have found that the arithmetic behind food miles could be flawed and that locally grown food can be less eco-friendly than food imported from other areas.