By Elise Rothman, Founder of LocalMotive

Is there a proven strategy to boost demand and revenue for local food? And if so, can the local food shift be measured? LocalMotive, a Public Benefit Corp out of Manitou Springs, Colorado, thinks they may have the answers. In 2015, they piloted LocalFood, a mobile application (“app”) that uses a three step process to enhance the vitality of local foodsheds: visibility, boost sales, and measure.

  1. Visibility

Making a local food sector visible is not simple, given the diverse demographics upon which local food economies rely. Stakeholders include pretty much everyone, from aging farmers to low-income single parents, food truck chefs, breweries, vegans, middle-age restaurant owners, homesteaders, and everyone in between.

On the other hand, smartphone usage is on the rise. According to a study in 2015 by the Pew Research Center, “64% of American adults now own a smartphone of some kind, up from 35% in the spring of 2011.To increase visibility of the local food sector, LocalFood sets a a geographic region – for example, in Pikes Peak, Colorado, the app uses a 50-mile radius around Colorado Springs – making local food players, places and products visible to app users. This includes the supply side – farmers, ranchers, coffee roasters, wineries, breweries, distilleries – as well as the retail side  – grocery stores, garden stores, restaurants, bars, cafes, farmers markets, buyers clubs, CSAs, food trucks.

  1. Boost Sales

The LocalFood app is free for producers and retailers, but in order to be listed, a producer has to be growing or producing at least one organic or pesticide-free product within the defined region. Similarly, a retail establishment must serve or sell at least two of these products to be included.  Retailers would rather provide two products from the region than not be listed in the app, so they are switching from food service honey and romaine lettuce to local honey and greens, from Nebraska steaks to Colorado Springs beef, from Seattle roasted coffee to local beans.

  1. Measure Impact

LocalMotive, in conjunction with five University of Colorado Colorado Springs Bachelor of Innovation students, developed a backend database that quantifies and measures the local food shift as it occurs. For example, when a restaurant replaces their non-local honey with a local one, that purchase is recorded. At the end of the year, the data is tallied up.

LocalFood CS has been piloting in the Pikes Peak Region for almost two years, but the measuring component is new. Right now, it appears that local food shift will represent an increase of $50,000 to $150,000 for an app’s first year, but more funding is needed to improve measuring capacity.  In the meantime, LocalFood is on its way to being the first evidence-based strategy to positively impact  a local food economy. For more information see LocalFoodNetworkPBC.org, download the app iPhone or Android, or call (305) 600-2401.

Elise Rothman is a local food and environmental activist. Her local food initiatives include opening two small scale organic grocery stores in rural america Concho, AZ & Manitou Springs, CO, designing urban farm projects and most recently the creation and launch of a mobile app called LocalFood.  She is the founder of LocalMotive, a Colorado Public Benefit Corp whose mission is to rebuild healthy food systems in the US and abroad. Currently she is working with two of her kids on a permaculture project in southern France and developing Local Certifié, a mobile app to promote local food sales and production in the Tarn region in France.


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