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Local Food from WNC to WNY!

From time to time, ASAP’s programs take you behind the scenes of their work. For this post, our Local Food Research Center shares about a recent consulting project.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and at ASAP, we consider it an utmost compliment when groups approach us to find out how they can become “the ASAP of their community.” To provide these groups with the guidance and information they need, ASAP offers consulting services that cover everything from single events to entire local food campaigns.

In 2013 our consulting team worked with the Southern Tier West Regional Planning and Development Board (STW) in Western New York. Our work focused on STW’s fledgling local food branding program, From the Ground Up. First, our team conducted a community-wide survey to assess residents’ perceptions and desires around local food and farms. We also assessed STW’s communications strategies, provided local food branding certification templates, and created a best practices document for local food branding strategies. One of ASAP’s staff traveled to Salamanca, New York to share with the project’s stakeholders – STW employees, farmers, market managers, etc. – effective branding strategies for local food and provided tools and recommendations for moving forward. Now, a year later, we checked back in with Kim Lamendola, STW’s Regional Development Coordinator to talk about the many accomplishments their team has made in transforming southwest New York into a local food and farm haven.

Two outstanding accomplishments of the group include “From the Ground Up: Local Food in Allegany, Cattaraugus, & Chautauqua FromTheGroundUp coverCounties,” Western New York’s first comprehensive online food guide, and FreshLocalWNY.org, a website featuring news and events around local food and farm activities in the region. “The release of our regional food guide represents a first ever regional promotion of our local food producers and farmers. The guide blended and celebrates all of the work the individual counties [of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany] already do and just pulled it together to create a handy resource for this region in Western New York,” says LaMendola.

Pulling from ASAP’s recommendation to strengthen local direct marketing opportunities, STW has been working with the Farmers Market Federation of New York. With the Federation, STW will be forming a chapter of the statewide organization so that the market managers of the 22 farmers markets in the tri-county area can become a network of working peers. Says LaMendola, “Our work with the farmers markets and bringing them together and having the opportunity to present to them state and national research and findings about some of the challenges and opportunities that are there for the market; they really are going to be more profitable as a market and for individual vendors if they work collaboratively versus competitively. And I think that’s really been a milestone.”

Looking to the future, STW has implemented many of ASAP’s recommendations about local food branding and has plans in the works to expand their From the Ground Up local food branding label. They are even planning on making a documentary on the state of local food production in their three counties. “I’m really proud of where this group will go,” says LaMendola, to which our team at ASAP fully agrees.

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