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Meet Lynn Stromberg of Lettuce Be Local

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lynn Stromberg.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
It wasn’t all that long ago when people built relationships with numerous small craftsmen and food purveyors, they personally knew the butcher, the baker, and the cheesemaker amongst others. My husband and I developed personal relationships with local farmers for dairy, produce, grain and flour, all varieties of meat and value-added items, like maple syrup, jams, and honey. For as long as I can recall we have gone farm shopping, not grocery shopping.

Almost 6 years ago, we realized many of our farmer friends were struggling to keep their farms going and lacked the ability to move their goods to the masses. I worked in hospitality at the time and saw farm to table marketing by restaurants, being exploited. Chefs were using terms like local, farm fresh, small farms, etc. and false marketing to deceive diners.

Our knowledge of farming struggles and this deception fueled our frustration and the opportunity to create Lettuce Be Local. We knew that if we wanted to have confidence in our food system we needed to do our own legwork.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Starting this small business has mirrored most of the farm roads I drive daily; it’s been bumpy with car-swallowing potholes, it’s dirty and in many cases, unpassable. It’s my version of “off-roading” and yet, I know at the end of the road a farmer is waiting and needs my assistance. The feeling I get knowing this crazy business is helping small local farmers, is why I travel those unpredictable roads.

I started LBL with no money, no job and no idea what I was doing. I recognized the farming industry needed help and saw no other choice, but to jump into my truck, pick up local food and deliver it to chefs who had no other means of getting it. Doing all the farm pick-ups, then loading, sorting and repacking thousands of pounds of local food, every week, by myself, for about 5 years, has taken its toll both physically and mentally.

Working IN the business instead of working ON the business proves to be an exhausting and challenging process; it hinders long-term sustainability. Yet, it is those years, tears and grinds that makes me appreciate every success and equally respect every failure as a lesson in growth.

Lettuce Be Local, LLC – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Lettuce Be Local is the Central Mass Local Food Hub. Since 2012, LBL has educated, aggregated and transported traceable local ingredients from farms to restaurants, breweries, and schools. In addition to weekly deliveries of local food, chefs ask us to find specific local ingredients, while farmers ask for assistance finding a buyer for their product(s). As a farm connector, I curate relationships between farmers and chefs, in all culinary fields, to help build the farming community, a process that is just starting to take shape again after decades of being forgotten.

We are most recognized for local food delivery, yet are also known for the Lettuce Be Local Farmer Dinner Series. In the last 4 years, we hosted 10 local farmer dinners on different farms in MA, where 100% of the ingredients were sourced locally. Every event showcased a multicourse dinner plated by guest chefs with local beer and wine pairings and live music.

The dinners were delivered with a fine dining menu, yet in a casual setting, as every dinner took place on the farm where most of the food was raised. It takes me weeks to do the menu sourcing for every event, but it is an important part of our mission. Since we launched the series, there are quite a few options for farm dinners now, but be weary, that food may not always come from local farms. I started LBL to have confidence in our food system and consumers can be confident in us!

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
There are many ways to define success, especially as an entrepreneur, where it can be a daily struggle to stay uplifted and productive. There are many roadblocks and sometimes it is hard to avoid being consumed by challenges. However, there are so many victories to celebrate too.

Success is knowing I built a brand from nothing, with the perception that it is bigger than just me and a few volunteers (primarily family). Humble success is the fact that LBL has contributed significant financial aid and resources to a struggling industry. We have changed a mindset, where a chef not only cares how and where their food is grown but also about the farmer who produced it, because they have since, become friends.

We set out to make people think differently about their food and it’s working. When a chef is planning a special dinner, changing a menu or even runs out of something, they think local first now, then call me or a farmer direct; that is success. Those huge milestones in commercial kitchens are only the beginning and we have a long way to go. Our next step is to continue expanding and keep educating others about why they should care more about what they eat.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Joe Santa Maria at Kill the Ball Media

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