What is a Cuisine Trail?

Mary McMahon

A cuisine trail is a collective of thematically related regional food producers such as farmers, bakers, and cooks who work cooperatively to sell and market themselves. In some areas, food producers can apply for an official cuisine trail designation, which entitles them to assistance with marketing from government agencies, and lends an air of officialdom to the proceedings. The goal of a cuisine trail is to increase awareness of regional food producers, improve tourism revenue, and increase income from agricultural operations.

A gift basket on a cuisine trail.
A gift basket on a cuisine trail.

The guidelines for a cuisine trail vary, depending on who is administering the cuisine trail program. As a general rule, the participants have to be regionally close to each other, allowing visitors to reach every producer within a day or two, and they must be related to each other in some way; apple farms and cider makers, for example, or a group of breweries. Often preference is expressed for small, locally based producers, rather than big companies and members of chains.

An apple farm on a cuisine trail might work with a cider maker to promote both products.
An apple farm on a cuisine trail might work with a cider maker to promote both products.

Once a cluster of producers gets together to create a cuisine trail, they can work together to promote themselves to visitors. For example, participants might pool marketing resources to create maps, brochures, and other promotional materials. Alone, each producer couldn't hope to reach a very large audience, but with combined incomes, the producers generate more marketing clout, ensuring that their materials will be seen and heard by more people.

Producers often work cooperatively to sell goods, as well; for example, they might offer discounts to each other's establishments to visitors, encouraging visits to every stop on the cuisine trail, and they might promote other local food producers to their guests as well. Gift baskets and other packaged products along the cuisine trail often include objects from each producer along the way, allowing people to take home a memento of the cuisine trail for friends and family.

One of the benefits of cuisine trails is that they can work to preserve rare regional culinary traditions. Apple farms, for example, can afford to grow rare heritage apples when they work cooperatively, ensuring that such apples remain profitable. A cuisine trail can also be used to preserve unique food preparation techniques for future generations. Cuisine trials stress the cultural value of small, artisan producers, and they can encourage visitors to look up similar producers at home so that they can learn more about the culinary history of their regions.

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Discussion Comments


My friends and I drove along the wine trail in Connecticut. There was some excellent wineries there and beautiful vineyards. They also gave us a "passport" that we had stamped at each winery we visited.

It was a lot of fun and even my friend who is from Connecticut didn't know about all of the wineries. Who knows what other trails are out there in other states. I think I would like to try a cheese trail in Wisconsin. I hope there is one!


I think this is also an excellent way to support small producers. Food production in the US has become so standardized that small producers have been suffering. That is why local artisan foods and organic produce are so expensive. And it won't get better unless people buy more of it.

The cuisine trail is a great way to do this. I'm so glad that government provides some marketing assistance as well. I wish there was even more government support and benefits for local producers.

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