The category would get that clarity if an item were identified by a specific farm, city or county, Odron said.
“There needs to be a set of rules on what locally grown is,” he said.
One definition would help, not hurt, the category, Odron said.
“Somebody needs to step in like the government or PMA or United, that says this is how we define it,” he said. “Nobody would lose on it. The winners would be everybody. The customer would be the winner, because we want them to be the winner.”
Some suppliers would lose out though, said Robert Verloop, executive vice president of marketing for Naples, Fla.-based Naturipe Farms LLC.
“People always have very clear definitions because they think it makes it easier, but in this case I don’t think we should be focusing on exclusionary things; it needs to be inclusive,” Verloop said.
He noted that perhaps the most common accepted definition of “locally grown” is state of origin.
“There are consumers who feel it needs to be within a 60-mile radius,” he said. ‘That small niche will find opportunities.”
But niches shouldn’t be allowed to drive comprehensive marketing programs, Verloop said.
“We tend to go toward a broader, more encompassing definition,” he said. “In most cases, within produce and other areas, the state of origin seems to be the fine line for local.”
Ted & Honey, a Brooklyn, N.Y., restaurant that places heavy emphasis on local for its menu offerings, tries to source its produce from within a 100-mile radius, said Christopher Jackson, executive chef and owner.
“If I’m getting it from the tri-state area, I’m happy,” he said. “I try not to be too strict, like keeping within 75 miles. But I like to get my core ingredients in that area.”