Competing with major companies in the food world isn’t easy. Heather Tallman accepts the challenge on behalf of Indiana’s local food producers who are members of Indiana Grown. Tallman is membership development project manager for Indiana Grown, an initiative within the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.
Membership is free, and there are nearly 1,300 members statewide. Tallman says the goal is providing educational help and assistance to Indiana farmers and others who want to produce and sell their own products. When Tallman has the opportunity, she persuades retail stores to devote shelf space to Indiana-grown or -produced products. She’s had success, although she acknowledges that it can be a difficult process to earn space in large retail chains.
“We convinced the Target store in Greenwood to devote a sizable amount of space near the front of the store to Indiana products last summer,” she says. “It was space that wasn’t being utilized very well, and the store manager was willing to try it.
“They even put up our Indiana Grown banner. It was a neat step for Indiana Grown and member-produced products.”
Some local products didn’t move off the shelves very quickly. “If you’re trying to sell ketchup or some specialty item that is considerably more expensive than what the consumer can buy in a national brand, it’s difficult, even if it’s a locally grown item and they know where it came from,” Tallman explains.
Eventually, the district manager decided the space could be better used. However, the Indiana products that sold well were moved to an end cap in the food section and are still displayed as Indiana Grown products. Currently, all Target stores in the area offer Indiana products through an end-cap display. Indiana Grown has had limited success with other chain stores.
“It can be difficult because decisions in large chain stores are often made at higher levels,” Tallman says. “However, we’re still excited that we’ve kept several Indiana products in these stores. It gives consumers a choice to buy a locally produced product if they want.”