Taste the Local Difference Takes Flight

December 22, 2018 |

TASTE THE LOCAL DIFFERENCE TAKES FLIGHT

December 21, 2018
Jeff Smith, Communications Director

All photos copyright Taste the Local Difference

Today marks one of the biggest days in the history of Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, an occasion when we are announcing the sale of our local food marketing company, Taste the Local Difference, to the venture capital firm Boomerang Catapult. The sale means TLD – and its talented CEO Tricia Phelps – will have access to the capital and business management expertise needed to expand the company across the state and nation within the rapidly growing movement of sourcing food locally.

“We worked incredibly hard with the crucial support of countless people over the years to grow and strengthen TLD. For a nonprofit to start and incubate a program that becomes viable in the marketplace is something really special, something to celebrate,” says Groundwork Executive Director Hans Voss. “We’ve always been a creator of ideas, and here’s one of our very best ideas taking off. Boomerang Catapult has an impressive track record of success, and I am confident TLD will thrive in this new structure. I couldn’t be happier for Tricia and TLD – and ultimately for all the farmers and food entrepreneurs who will benefit from TLD’s success.”

TLD’s roots go back 17 years, to when Groundwork (Michigan Land Use Institute at the time) published a report titled The New Entrepreneurial Agriculture: A Key Piece of the Farmland Protection Puzzle. The premise was that farmers, farmland, and the rural landscape we love were at risk of disappearing because developers could pay farmers more for their land than farmers could earn through the limited market options available at the time – largely bulk, global commodity markets that provided untenably low prices to farms.

We used our communications expertise to elevate a trend emerging across the country: small farmers were pursuing an entrepreneurial way of doing business that also provided health, quality of life, and economic benefits to communities. A pillar of the strategy was growing a more diverse set of crops and selling to local consumers. We now call that way of business “the local food movement.”

In the early aughts, the New Entrepreneurial Agriculture idea was nearly radical (even though it was how farming had long been done in the past), and looking back at it, the Groundwork team’s vision seems stunningly prescient as local food has become the hottest food trend in the nation.

Also prescient, the Groundwork team saw that for a local food movement to thrive, a key piece of system infrastructure was needed: marketing services for local food producers. Such an innovation would serve farmers and small food entrepreneurs, who were expert at growing and creating great food but weren’t visible to buyers like grocery stores, hospitals, schools, and everyday consumers, explains Diane Conners, who was involved in TLD in the early days and today is senior policy specialist at Groundwork. “Remember,” Conners says, “in 2000 you could probably count on one hand the restaurants that touted locally grown radishes or beef on their menu, and there wasn’t a school anywhere that was purchasing from a local farmer.”