This trend has affected the way local growers make their money each year.
“Overall, local sales are becoming a bigger portion of our bottom dollar,” Mixon said.
Growers are also selling produce directly to consumers at non-traditional outlets such as farmers markets.
“Most growers are getting involved in the local demand by doing more with farmers markets. Most of our neighbors are moving in that direction as well,” Mixon said.
Restaurants are also a driving force for local produce.
Pittman said the company deals mostly with foodservice customers, which doesn’t create a lot of opportunity for promotions each year. However, he agrees that local products can get people excited.
“They get really excited about local tomatoes, and strawberries, but the strawberries are done now. They are a big deal in April and May,” he said.
To help promote when these items are in season, Pittman said the company tries to use social media as a tool.
“We put specials and local, in-season items on there, to help tell people when we have local peaches or other items,” Pittman said.
Tomatoes and peaches are among the most popular locally grown items in Kentucky and Tennessee, he said.
Knott has found industry shows to be helpful in increasing demand for local produce.
“We have a booth at those shows every year,” he said, mentioning The Packer’s Midwest Produce Show in August as one that’s coming up.
Knott said the company doesn’t always attend shows on the West Coast.
“Our business is considered 100% local, so we try to find opportunities to share that when the shows aren’t too far away. Those shows are big marketing tools for us,” he said.