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  Marketing Local Foods
    Food for Thought’s primary goal is to develop a sustainable market for foods produced in and around Knox County. Our efforts began in 2000 with the publication of HomeGrown: A Guide to Local Food Products in Knox County, Ohio. The booklet provides information on over fifty local producers of fruit, meat, produce, eggs, and specialty products. Additional materials include maps of producer locations, a chart indicating the seasonal availability of foods, a list of reasons to buy local, and a brief history of agriculture in Knox County. A new expanded edition was published in 2007. The Ohio State University Extension Office maintains an online version.   
Publication of HomeGrown has stimulated community interest in local foods.
    The publication of HomeGrown stimulated interest in creating a centrally located farmer’s market. The Market on the Square opened in June 2001, and it has developed a reputation as one of the finest farmer’s markets in Ohio. Its location on the public square of Mount Vernon, the county seat, has helped bring traffic back to the historic downtown, which has suffered a decline in recent years with the growth of chain stores on the town’s periphery.   
The Market on the Square features a wide variety of local foods.

    Plans are underway to convert a historic warehouse in downtown Mount Vernon into a year-round retail outlet for local foods. The facility will open in the fall of 2009.
    Food for Thought is also working directly with institutional buyers to encourage their purchase of local foods. In 2004, Kenyon College began buying local products for use in the dining halls. In collaboration Working closely with AVI Foodsystems, the College made $150,000 in local food purchases in academic year 2005–2006; it plans to double that amount in the next two years. A key to our success has been the cooperation of Lanning’s Foods, a distributor located in Mount Vernon. Beginning in 2004, Lanning’s agreed to acquire local foods for sale to Kenyon. Partnership with a distributor has overcome many of the problems, including delivery, insurance, and billing, that often preclude the purchase of local foods by large institutional buyers.      Kenyon now acquires much of its food directly from local farmers. Local foods currently comprise more than a third of all College food purchases.
The historic lobby of the Buckeye Candy & Tobacco Company building will be renovated as a year-round retail outlet for local foods.

    Food for Thought is developing contracts between institutional buyers and area farmers that will ensure a dependable supply of local products at a reasonable price. Businesses have begun to carry local foods, particularly in Gambier, home of Kenyon College. The Middle Ground Cafe features local organic foods almost exclusively, and the Village Market carries numerous local products in season.

    Our efforts to market local foods draw on systematic research to determine producer and consumer interest. Current studies are designed to determine the equipment needs of farmers for the community kitchen and the level of consumer interest in local foods. Future studies will assess the economic impact of the project for farmers, businesses, and the community. These and other studies will help us develop marketing techniques and public programs to build consumer interest.