Validate, Facilitate, Amplify
As a retailer, you have a fair amount of power and influence. Your decisions on purchasing products can help propel local businesses to gain stronger sales.
In essence you are a "validator" and amplifier for your gateway producers
(defined as emerging or small scale businesses producing products from within your community).
Using any number of marketing means to expand customer awareness helps build product exposure, while buying direct from producers, you help strengthen their bottom line. Purchasing direct and promoting local producers showcases your relationship to the community too. NOFA-VT has just completed a report on the costs of distribution. It's an interesting read-check it out to learn how your choices impact local producers.