With graceful images of carnelian red beets, paisley-ed orange squash, and golden Rubenesque pears, the Eat Local Food marketing and
art design company lets the visual feast of authentic food speak its message.
Eat Local Food is the brainchild of sisters Joan Tobin and Chris Witkowski.
This local food marketing and art design business showcases the stunning still
life and portrait paintings of artist sister Chris on all of their “made in the
USA” products. Joan manages the business side of things, strategizing on new
marketing campaigns, handling finances, and developing new products.
When their initial customers at the Port Townsend Farmer’s Market in Washington hired them for a marketing campaign in 2004, sales at the market for the year shot up from $90K to over $500K in 2005. With that success under their belts, Joan and Chris decided they were onto something. Joan quit her job as a CPA and Eat Local Food was born. Now with customers in 20 states and in Canada, they were especially pleased when the first customer from Hawaii called recently.
Most of Eat Local Food’s customers are farmers and Farmer’s Markets along with Co-ops and non-profits. Farmers and Market Managers don’t have time to learn new software and printing specifications and they’re usually working with a tight budget. But they still need to create a consistent “brand” that can help consumers identify them and what they’re producing. The gorgeous (and budget conscious) vegetable and flower designs on the banners, totebags and cards made by Eat Local Food can make a powerful impression.
Fluffy sheep, red barns and green fields might seem idyllic driving by, but Joan says “Farmers get that it’s a business and that they are business people.” While consumers may find cardboard signs drawn with markers part of the homespun ethos of a farm, the consistency of professional and beautiful marketing tools works. The lovely images of local food help by articulating the positive emotional connection and joy in eating real food that makes seeking it out so worthwhile.
Joan says that their goal is to “promote the authenticity of what people are already doing,” making it easier for a farmer to get the message to a customer that their locally grown food is truly something special.
Not only do they promote authenticity in what others are doing, they have a very strong standard of authenticity for themselves. Chris paints only food that she’s bought from her local farmer’s market in season. When R. Hirt at the Eastern Market in Detroit commissioned a project, Chris photographed Hirt’s actual cheeses for the cheese banners.
They don’t stop with using authentic sources for the creative side of the business, they also adhere to a set of values in their business standards. These include selling only products that are made in the USA, not just printed in the USA. That means, the t-shirts and the totebags are not made in China or made with foreign cotton then printed in the US. They’re made from US grown cotton in a US manufacturing plant and then printed in the US. They feel that this approach helps ensure that people along their supply chain are paid a living wage.
The decision to use made in USA products and real local produce for their artwork is part of their company values statement that also includes: products they sell are reusable and functional, that personally their consumption habits support those in the business of selling local food, and that they contribute personal time to support non-profit organizations that promote sustainable local food systems.
Part of what customers value in working with Eat Local Food is the perspective they bring from having contacts all over the country – they know what is working and often have fresh ideas for farmers. Joan says most farmers get started with a simple banner that’s easy to put up and has the farm’s name on it, perhaps adding some of their dry-erase cards to put prices on, and some postcards. At a cost of around a hundred dollars, it’s an affordable way to go. What’s not on the Eat Local Food price list are their helpful tips like: bundle things like tomatoes, hot peppers and cilantro together and call it a “salsa kit,” and common sense things like keep the display beautiful, and consistent, and offer plenty of bags.
Eat Local Food is working with some new customers – like hospitals – and on some new marketing ideas – a calendar focusing on healthy cooking with kids. Right now, they are the only business out there marketing local food. Even with a hundred competitors, their beautiful designs and admirable business practices would put them at the top of the heap.
Contact Eat Local Food at:
Eat Local Food LLC
637 Emmons Blvd.
Wyandotte, MI 48192