Consuming Locally Through PFI’s Directories
The beginning of summer heralds the opening of farmers markets and CSAs. The exciting lineup of fresh fruits and vegetables draws consumers to buy straight from farmers. But as summer wanes into autumn, outdoor farmers markets – and the visibility and convenience they offer farmers and shoppers alike – close too, leaving fewer options for direct marketers who may still have product left over.
Even if seasonality is part of the job, producers need consistent demand for consistent income. The same can be said for businesses, non-profits and organizations that handle local products. Practical Farmers of Iowa’s directories exist to connect consumers with products and services from members. Last April, we launched the PFI Directories page on our website to house all of our directories in one location.
This page makes it easier for supporters to find the goods and services they’re looking for, directly from PFI members. When you purchase goods or services from members listed here, you’re directly funding and helping our membership. Doing so builds farm viability, encourages creativity and helps new farms succeed.
Member-Benefit Directories From PFI
Practical Farmers of Iowa has three member-benefit directories:
- The “Local Foods Directory” contains PFI members who are growing and marketing products, from vegetables and meat to popcorn. If you’re looking to join a CSA, source whole cuts of meat or compare local ingredients, this is the directory to visit.
- The “Businesses Offering Local Foods” directory consists of several businesses that act as distributors of local products, such as food hubs or co-ops.
- Our newest addition to the Directories page is the “Business and Organization Directory.” Here, companies with an Organization-level PFI membership list their services and contact information so people can reference them when looking for new products or services. This is an ideal directory for farmers looking for agricultural services, products and resources.
The Directories page also links to two separate webpages with specialized directories for cover crops and small grains: the “Small Grains Directory” and the “Cover Crop Business Directory.” The latter was recently transformed into an app and website that offers cover crop goods and services by location.
These two directories are excellent resources for those interested in planting cover crops or small grains – and for businesses seeking to connect with farmers. Businesses don’t need a PFI membership to be listed – so if you offer a relevant service and aren’t listed, contact us about getting added.
We created our first two product-sourcing directories in 2016 as a way to increase exposure and support for PFI members.
The “Local Foods Directory” started off with 81 listings, which we featured in our Autumn 2016 magazine.
In that issue, we wrote: “Both farmer and non-farmer members have identified local foods as a priority issue for Practical Farmers of Iowa. We hope that, by listing members who market local foods in a centralized place, we will help foster more connections between farmers and the friends of farmers looking to support them.” Today, the directory has grown to include 118 farm businesses – and the goal remains just as true now as then.
We officially launched our “Business and Organizational Directory” on our Directories page in May 2021 as an added benefit for the companies and non-profits serving farmers, landowners and rural communities. This directory has helped people find services directly from organizations who are part of the PFI network, and has helped these organizations promote and market their resources.
Directories as a Marketing Aid
Our member-benefit directories are easy to join and browse. Interested farms or organizations can sign up through our website, and only need to fill out a couple of questions to join. For example, the “Local Foods Directory” consists of just four columns: farm name and website, member names, locations served and products available. As long as the farm or household has a current PFI membership, its listing can be included in our directory.
Natasha Wilson is the primary contact for West Fork Farmstead, which produces meat, eggs and honey in eastern Iowa. She uses the directory to increase her exposure to PFI people and to network with similar people.
“I have used the directory to look for producers in other parts of the state who I may not know personally or think of right away,” Natasha says. “It was easy to sign up and has been easy to make changes when needed. I appreciate being included to help potential customers and other farmers find me, and to help improve our overall presence and exposure online.”
A minimum of vital information on the directory allows the farm or business to speak for itself. This cuts out a lot of unnecessary time and effort in marketing and purchasing. The simplicity also allows producers to conduct initial market research.
For example, the “Local Foods Directory” offers enough information for these farms to see what other producers in their area might be growing. From here, they can identify a niche and decide what to grow and market. Conversely, it’s simple to find PFI members with complementary products for purposes of collaboration. Each directory provides a snapshot of what PFI members sell, and enough contact information to reach out.
Directories as a Consumption Aid
PFI’s directories are also an ideal starting spot for consumers looking to find local goods or services. Jeanne Hansen of Hansen’s Dairy, in Hudson, Iowa, uses the “Local Foods Directory” for marketing and personal purchasing.
“I recently used that directory to locate nearby duck eggs,” she says. “If you’re looking for unique things, get on [the directory] and find them.” Jeanne also recommends the directory to customers who ask about other products. When used like this, the directories are an excellent tool to connect friends of farmers with the farmers they wish to support. “People need to realize that connection is there,” Jeanne says.
For a PFI member, these directories are a free, effective means of increasing their customer base. Our friend of farmer members want to support our farmers. More broadly, supply chain shortages linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with farmer creativity in adapting their operations to meet consumer needs, has added new momentum to the public’s interest in sourcing more ingredients locally. Being listed in PFI’s directory is another way to advertise and connect with potential customers.
A Growing Commitment to Local Sourcing
Building connections between farmers and buyers matters to PFI members and staff. This is why PFI staff strive to source ingredients locally from members for all our major events. Working with caterers or cooks to source local foods isn’t always easy. But the effort is worthwhile, both for the quality of the food and the networks formed.
Bre Taege, catering manager at Farmhouse Catering, looks forward to using local products where possible, and uses PFI’s “Local Foods Directory” as a resource. “The farmers are always so responsive and helpful,” she says.
At our 2022 annual conference in January, Farmhouse Catering used local ingredients from 25 PFI member farms – including eggs from Bridgewater Farm, cream from Hansen’s Dairy, whole chicken from Wild Rose Pastures, onions from Blue Gate Farm, lettuce from Lee’s Greens and others. Nine of these farms are listed in the “Local Foods Directory,” a copy of which was sent to Farmhouse Catering.
“I didn’t have to ask each individual producer what I could get from them,” Bre says. “It saved so much time! I use these contacts all the time for events throughout the year. I truly feel like I am supporting local businesses, and as a local small business ourselves, we love to support our community. We know we are getting a fresh and quality product every time.”
Want to explore PFI’s directories?
- Find the Directories page at practicalfarmers.org/directories or under the Connect With PFI section of our website.
Want to add yourself to one of our directories?
- Under each directory, there is a form to sign up. If needed, please join or renew as a PFI member and complete the form under the directory you would like to be added to – and please allow one business day for your entry to be listed.
- If you would like to join the “Businesses Offering Local Foods” directory, please email Emma Liddle at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire.
- Contact Emma at (515) 232-5661 or email@example.com.