Locally-Grown Foods Account for Less than 2% of Total Sales in U.S.

Sunday, February 19, 2012
Fueled by a flood of influential books and documentary films, the locally grown foods movement has basked in the media spotlight (including a Time magazine cover in 2007) and enjoyed astronomical growth since the turn of the century. In fact, locally grown food sales totaled about $4.8 billion in 2008–yet accounted for only 1.6% of the $300 billion U.S. agricultural products market. About 107,000 farms (5% of the total) were selling locally in many different ways, including direct to consumer marketing, farmers’ markets, farm-to-school programs, community-supported agriculture, community gardens, school gardens, roadside stands and warehouses that being together locally-grown produce.
 
The “locavore” movement is still growing, as a recent survey of 1,800 professional chefs by the National Restaurant Association found that three of the top four top menu trends for 2012 will be locally sourced meats and seafood, locally grown produce and “hyper-local items.” Even mega retailer Wal-Mart got into the act, announcing in 2010 its intent to sell more locally grown food.
 
Responding to popular demand, the government has taken steps to encourage sales of locally grown food, including loans for local food producers, encouragement of local food purchases in schools and child nutrition programs, grants for farmers’ markets, grants for farm-to-school programs, and the “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” Initiative, among many others.
 
However, given the usually higher price of locally grown food and questions about whether locally grown foods could be produced in sufficient quantity to feed local majorities, the profits of corporate agribusiness are probably safe for now.
-Matt Bewig
 
To Learn More:
The Role of Local Food Systems in U.S. Farm Policy (by Renée Johnson, Tadlock Cowan and Randy Alison Aussenberg, Congressional Research Service) (pdf)

Dept. of Agriculture Now Allows Schools to Buy Local Fruits and Vegetables (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov) 

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