Region – On Aug. 11, the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC) and Montachusett Regional Planning Commission (MRPC) began spearheading a “Buy Local” initiative. This multi-pronged initiative seeks to facilitate a shift in spending patterns to support local businesses and producers in central Massachusetts.
The heart of the initiative – a Buy Local campaign and market survey/analysis – is the second phase to CMRPC's current Farm and Food System studies, and will be overseen by the Central Agricultural Coalition (CAC), established for this purpose. By facilitating a shift from imported products to locally produced goods, CMRPC and its partners hope to spur economic development, job creation, improved public health, farm sustainability and community building.
Agriculture is a major component of the regional economy, so much of the Buy Local initiative will focus on food and agricultural products. This bodes well for local restaurants and distributors. Consumers are increasingly buying for sustainability, locale, justice, quality and taste. Businesses that cater to these preferences are poised to capture greater market shares. With over 1,500 farms and artisanal producers, Worcester County has the agricultural inputs necessary to meet such demand.
According to Trish Settles, CMRPC principal planner, “CMRPC's efforts in parts of western Worcester County indicated a huge potential for food-based economic development. The Farm and Food System studies are surveying what is being produced and what producers require to expand operations. The next step is quantifying demand, understanding what is needed and in what quantity, and facilitating the shift to locally produced goods.”
Shifts to local food consumption also support workforce development. The Buy Local initiative will target markets, grocers, restaurants, wholesalers, distributors and processors, as well as anchor institutions such as hospitals and schools.
Increasing consumption of locally produced goods is a win for producers, retailers, and consumers.
“People assume that locally produced goods are more expensive than equivalent goods produced in bulk shipped to the region,” she said. “Typically, this isn's true Buying locally produced goods cost the same, helps local businesses and local families, is a selling point for retailers, and creates jobs. It's a win-win.”
To find out more, obtain a copy of the survey, or get involved, contact Trish Settles at [email protected] or 508-459-3320.