When you think of locally raised food, you probably think of small growers at farmers markets. Certainly, that’s one part of the local food movement. The number of farmers markets has doubled in this country in the last 10 years. But that’s not where most locally produced food is going.
According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture, nearly $5 BILLION of local market fruits and vegetables are going to supermarkets and restaurants. That means as more customers are demanding more locally grown food, stores and eating establishments are answering the call.
“There have been a lot of questions in the past if promoting local foods is even worth it,” says Sarah Low, an economist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, who was co-author of the study. But these numbers, she says, “suggest that there could be a lot more room to increase demand.”
Low also said that date was from 2008 and doesn’t include the new programs to sell local produce to schools, hospital and other institutions.
Even though this sounds like a lot of money, it’s only a drop in the bucket for big agribusiness in America. The bulk of all agricultural sales involve commodities like soybeans and corn.
But agriculture officials hope the numbers will change the perception that local food is a fad or applies only to those able to afford it. If the next study shows continued growth it will be good news for people who want better quality food.