Fall is a wonderful time of year to find Minnesota Grown foods at your neighborhood grocery store. Sweet corn, pumpkins, and apples are common locally-grown foods that grocers carry at this time of year, but those are just a few of the local foods you may find. Did you know that Minnesota Grown and the Minnesota Grocers Association even sponsor a contest every year for the best display of Minnesota Grown foods in a grocery store?
Besides fresh produce like fruits and vegetables, you might find Minnesota Grown on dry goods shelves like maple syrup, honey, and wild rice. Don’t forget the meat and dairy sections often carry Minnesota Grown eggs, cheeses, and meat!
But what happens when you can’t find some of the Minnesota Grown foods you enjoy at the store near you? Sometimes all you need to do is ask! Here are a few tips to asking for locally grown foods in your neighborhood grocery store:
- Is the food you want grown in Minnesota? Avocados are delicious, but – as of right now – they are not able to be grown in Minnesota outside of greenhouse settings. Look to see if the food you’re interested in buying can be grown in Minnesota. One resource you can use is the Minnesota Grown Products
- Try to find the right store employee to ask. Are you wanting to find more local meat options? Chances are you’ll want to talk with the meat department manager. Is local zucchini your quest? Many stores have a manager specifically for fruits and vegetables called the “produce manager”. If you’re unsure of who to reach out to, the store should be able to direct your inquiry to the right person, but starting with department managers may save you both time.
- Friendliness goes a long way. There are many reasons a store may not currently be carrying a certain product. Approaching store staff with genuine curiosity rather than assumptions on why a product isn’t carried will help the store management be more open to your request.
- Give stores time. Sometimes stores are able to order a new product quickly, but at other times new products can be difficult to source. Your grocery store may be able to purchase the locally-grown food you’re requesting through their existing wholesale grocery supplier, for example, or they may need to create a direct relationship with a local farmer.
- Consider asking as a group. If an item that you want is a new product for your store, assuring the store that they will be able to sell most or all of that product can help them take the leap into buying something new. Ask friends and family if they would also purchase the food once it arrives in store and how much of it they would purchase. It can be especially helpful to relay this information to the store manager when you’re inquiring about a product that is new for the store.
- Buy what you ask for. Once the food you requested arrives, be sure to purchase a portion of it and thank the store again for carrying it. This continues to build a good relationship between you and the store, and it helps create a good experience for the store management around purchasing local foods.
- Sometimes the answer will still be no. Margins in the grocery business are very tight. There will be times that store managers would like to purchase a product at your request, but they cannot make it work with their current purchasing plan.
Locally grown foods are popular for many reasons like supporting the local economy, enjoying the fresh taste of foods grown closer to home, and having the opportunity to learn more about farm growing practices. Consider using the tips above to create more opportunities to purchase local in your neighborhood grocery store.