The roots of Taste the Local Difference go back to 2002, 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.
The Groundwork team saw that marketing services for local food producers would be essential. Groundwork created a marketing agency and named it Taste the Local Difference (TLD). The first project, launched in 2004, was a directory of farmers that showed what they grew and where they were located.
Over the years, TLD services expanded to include both hardcopy and online directories of farmers and producers, marketing consultation, market tests, surveys, brand development, brand awareness, and directly connecting producers to markets. Many people within the Northern Michigan food and farming scene credit TLD for being central to creating one of the strongest, most vibrant local food economies in the nation, despite the area’s small year-round population.
In late 2018 the company was sold and converted to a for-profit model with the purpose of expanding throughout the state and beyond.
For more information about Taste the Local Difference, please contact Paula Martin, Food & Farming Policy Specialist at [email protected].