Having spent a lot of time on the ground with people coming together to restore disappearing foods of their regions, there are two particular conversations that have always stood out for me: I remember one old timey apple grower in Appalachia telling me that he loves growing heirloom varieties, but if some of them have no interest among consumers, he has to cull them out of his orchard to make room for varieties that still attract the interest of urban dwellers.
When my friend in New Orleans, Chef Poppy Tucker, heard that story, she told me, “That’s right. My grandma used to say to me, Poppy, honey, if you want to save it, you gotta eat it.”
These responses from a farmer and a chef say two things to me. First, people aren’t just buying an apple for its calories or its vitamin content. They are also interested in its story, how it adds to their sense of place. Secondly, if you do it right, marketing diversity itself can be profitable.
Consumers would rather buy a basket of six different apple varieties with their stories attached, than just one supersized variety.
–Gary Paul Nabhan