Elizabeth Weigand, owner of Agricultural Connections talks about why buying local food is important, working with farms and restaurants, and how consumers can make small changes to help their local economy.


Show notes for episode 15, Buying Local with Liz of Ag Connect: 

Portrait of Liz Weigand with Agricultural Connections

Where to find Agricultural Connections: 


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What Elizabeth said: 

The work I’m doing with Agricultural Connections affects how we treat our landscape.

Agricultural Connections is “bringing sustainable food to kitchens of all sizes.”

The most important aspect of what we do is create relationships with our farmers and with our customers.

Local food is a relative term – our first zone of sourcing is Central Oregon, anything we can’t get in Central Oregon we will source from the Willamette Valley the third zone of sourcing would be outside of Oregon. We do get some products from California in the winter.

Most of our customers are really aware of sourcing…. As soon as we see something coming in from Mexico, we let our customers know… really it boils down to the values of the company, most of the customers who are really working hard to put out the extra effort to buy as locally as possible – it’s because they care. They really value being as sustainable and buying as local food as possible. We are the company that helps them achieve that goal.

In general, local is Central Oregon. Outside of that I usually use the word regional to mean the rest of Oregon or Southern Washington, but the best word, because it puts a boundary on it, is just to say Oregon food – because we all know what that means.

When is important to buy Local vs. Organic? 

It comes down to personal preference, and everyone has a different expectation of what they want to put in their own bodies. I tend to lean towards something local over something organic, and most of the time if something is local it is also certified organic. The most important thing is to consider the scale of the operation. A small scale operation tends to demonstrate more of the operational decision making that would reflect… doing right by the landscape. I think from a social perspective too, there’s more respect for the people that are working that land.

Buying local affects the economy in so many ways. If you buy something local, the economic impact of your purchase gets folded back into the community times three, then if you are buying from a business that’s not locally owned. If you’re buying food from Agricultural Connections or Central Oregon Locavore you are inherently buying something that is supporting local farms. You can know for certain that your purchase is supporting a local business and also a local farmer.

Our farmers are our neighbors. They are here in our home, and Oregon is kinda like our bigger home. There is something extremely empowering about knowing that you are investing in your home.  

Locally grown food tastes better, is fresher and probably has more nutrients. The food that is shipped around the country are varieties that have specific durability characteristics. Usually you are gaining flavor when you don’t have to have the durability.

Are people actually buying local? Or are they all talk?

There is a lot of talk and not as much action. I don’t know if that’s unique to local food or just how human beings are… but I do think that there seems to be a trend of desiring local food and whether or not that’s actually tricking down and supporting financially the businesses… who are in that industry… I’m not sure I would agree that it’s matching.

I would urge people to, if [buying local] is something that they want to support and that is a value that they have, to explore what that means for them and what behavior changes, big or small, that they are able to make to reflect that value for them.

The big picture thing I would suggest is… just to educate yourself about what is local. The first thing that helps you make that transition to what is local is to know what is in season. When you go to the grocery store, just start asking yourself what of these items is actually in season and what aren’t. You can usually tell by the price.

Another thing to look at in the store is there is always an earlier season of product coming from Mexico (for example strawberries will come from Mexico, then California, then Oregon.

Developing a sense of seasonality over the years, is that you really do get excited when something comes into season, and you really really enjoy it when it’s in season, and it creates this natural rhythm to get creative with different times of food at different times of year.

We want to feel richness in the food that we eat, and [eating seasonal] is a really fun way to create richness on the plate.

Why restaurants don’t buy local?

My guess is that there are a few barriers to why local restaurants don’t buy local – one is that they don’t know about what we do, and the second one is that there is this pre-determination that local food cannot fit into a budget. And so much of it is relationship driven, if a restaurant is already working with another distributor.

How do we know if a restaurant is making local food a priority and sourcing local?

If there is a claim on a menu, if something says “local” ask where. Is it coming from Central Oregon… Oregon… Pacific Northwest? The other question is what are the names of the farms you are sourcing from AND what is the frequency you are purchasing from them?

We don’t care if restaurants only buy a small amount year round, consistency is what supports us and the farmer. And also it’s more substantiated that the restaurant is actually supporting local.

We are hoping that in the end, there’s this call to having integrity with the reputation that we have in the community.

Stick with your hunch and explore all doors, talk to people, this [local food] is not going away and it’s a great time to get involved.

What Darlene said: 

Aroma and ripeness also are a clue when something is at it’s peak season.

Don’t buy tomatoes in December.

Grocery stores have that merchandising piece – because consumers want that. But I think there can also be a drive from consumers to say, no I’m going to go with something that is more in season right now, rather than something that’s not quite in season.

Shopping at a store that already works directly with local farmers is a nice way to take the guesswork out of it – you can make local a priority without having to do all the label reading.

We don’t want “local” to lose its meaning.

Getting a box from AC has really woken us up to food again.

Resources Mentioned:

produce box agricultural connections

Photo Credit: Josselyn Peterson

Central Oregon Locavore

Here’s the recipe I used for the fava greens (except I topped our pasta with parmesan cheese and chopped roasted salted pistachios from Central Oregon Locavore.


If you liked this episode, check out episode 3 of Tough Cookie with Jess Weiland of High Desert Food and Farm Alliance because we talk a lot about buying local on this episode too!

List of restaurants that buy from Agricultural connections:

Jackson’s Corner

123 Ramen

DumpCity Dumplings

Sunny Yoga Cafe

Broken Top Bottle Shop

Lone Pine Coffee

Rockin Daves

We’re the Wurst

900 Wall

Deschutes Brewery


Central Oregon Locavore

Bad Wolf Bistro & Bakery

Boone Dog Pizza

Deschutes Recovery Ctr

Metolius Tea

Primal Cuts

Local Slice


Where to find Darlene

Pickle Jar Studios website
Pickle Jar Studios on Instagram
Tough Cookie on Instagram