Cross posted from the Huffington Post Food blog:
This week I was at the Federal Reserve Bank in Chicago to talk about the business of local food. The conversation focused on how USDA and other federal agencies can work together with the private sector to harness the economic potential of local food across the Midwest. Joining me were executives, economic developers, and experts from businesses you may have heard of — Sysco, Chartwells, SuperValu, General Electric, Feeding America, Whole Foods Market and FamilyFarmed.org. There were also representatives from local, state and federal government ranging from USDA’s agencies to the Illinois Commerce Department — each recognizing how investments in local food can help stimulate the economy, create jobs and complement our country’s current agricultural system.
According the USDA’s own research, local food sales made through direct marketing sales like farmers markets, CSAs, and farm stands plus via supermarkets, restaurants and institutional buyers were close to $5 billion. Fruit, vegetable and nut growers selling into local and regional markets employ 13 fulltime workers per $1 million in revenue earned. Why is this? Part of it is consumer demand. In 2011, over 85 percent of the customers polled by National Grocers Association said they chose grocery stores based in part on whether they stock local products. Part of it is flexible business models that can nimbly and quickly respond to the market. Farms selling locally may grow a wider variety of crops, they may pack or process on the farm or use workers to transport and market their products. Regardless, local food has big potential for job creation and economic opportunity. Read more »
Fans at the Lucas Oil Stadium, pictured here, will be served three flavors of chili made from organic and locally grown ingredients. The USDA’s National Organic Program oversees the certification of USDA organic products. (Photo by Carl Van Rooy)
There’s a new menu item in town for the Super Bowl: white bean chili made with organic beans and vegetables. The push to bring organic and locally-grown options to the concession stand came from a partnership between non-profits that support family farms, celebrities and Centerplate, the NFL’s largest concession provider.
The USDA National Organic Program—within the Agricultural Marketing Service—oversees the certification of USDA organic products. We also certify third-party agents around the world to uphold the integrity of the organic label. Read more »
Apples sold at a winter farmers market in Somerville, Mass. Farmers markets are an important source of fresh local foods and can also be key to the economic success of farms and businesses within their communities.
As I’ve traveled the country, I’ve talked with more and more consumers who want a personal relationship with their food and are demanding to know more about it, where it came from and how it got to their plate. I’ve also talked with more and more producers who see the growing market demand for local food as a ripe business opportunity. One of USDA’s goals is to connect the two. Read more »
Christy (left) and Lilah Talbott of Richmond, VA came to the Fall Line Farms pick-up point at Bon Air United Methodist Church on Thursday, May 5, 2011. USDA Photos by Lance Cheung.
The market for local food – food that is produced, processed, distributed and sold within a specific region, say a radius of several hundred miles – is growing. Large, small and midsized farms are all tapping into it. Even better, new data suggest that these producers are employing more workers than they would be if they weren’t selling into local and regional markets. Read more »
Anyone who has shopped at a farmers market can appreciate the freshness of the food, the interaction with farmers, and the opportunity to learn how the food was produced. As an economist with the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), I’m also interested in what local food systems look like in the United States and how locally grown food products are delivered from farms to consumers. ERS recently published two studies (Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues, and Comparing the Structure, Size, and Performance of Local and Mainstream Food Supply Chains) that together provide a national perspective on local foods and tell detailed stories about local food supply chains. Read more »