Communities across the United States are enjoying healthier food grown by local farmers; and farmers are reaping better returns and helping to revitalize rural and urban communities by selling close to home instead of through distant markets. Local marketing has expanded beyond farmers’ markets and farmstands, although these are still popular and the number of US farmers’ markets is growing rapidly. New regional supply networks are linking farmers with their customers in innovative ways and taking advantage of opportunities for marketing to institutions such as public schools, hospitals and universities. In the process, they are bringing a host of other benefits to communities within the networks. But significant barriers must be overcome to increase the potential of these new marketing mechanisms and expand them to meet the needs of underserved farmers and customers.
number has increased since 2002, when only 400 public schools were buying local or regional food. 1 Consumers’, producers’ and policy makers’ interests can be met simultaneously through local and regional marketing of high‐quality, healthy food. Shorter supply chains that deliver products grown in the region have strong appeal for a number of reasons, such as ♦ better and more stable farm incomes that keep existing farms in business and attract new farmers. ♦ more wealth retained in rural communities. ♦ new jobs created in food production, processing, distribution and retailing. ♦ better access to healthier, more diverse foods that help to prevent obesity and diet‐related diseases. ♦ increased supply of healthy, local food in underserved communities. ♦ enhanced product traceability and accountability of producers to consumers. Local and regional food marketing also has environmental advantages, such as lower carbon emissions and more opportunities for diversification and sustainable production. And it is less vulnerable to widespread contamination and disruption from natural catastrophes. To increase the scope and impacts of existing local and regional marketing networks and to meet consumer demand, the following federal policies are especially important:
Source: Agricultural Marketing Service, US Department of Agriculture
Support feasibility studies for increased local and regional food marketing. Identify infrastructural gaps and other barriers. Give small‐scale and mid‐scale farmers the tools they need to meet growing consumer demand for local and regional products. Expand the essential infrastructure for local agricultural production and the processing and distribution of produce, meats, dairy, and other products. Support mechanisms and access to information that farmers can use to aggregate regional supply in order to access high‐volume markets such as large institutions. Ensure that farmers and consumers who have been underserved by farm and food policy benefit from these steps.
Nutrition, health, and food safety are high on the national agenda, as obesity has increased dramatically. At the same time, producers are concerned about market profitability; and agricultural policy makers are concerned about the small numbers of young and beginning farmers and disappearing farmland—both essential to maintain the American legacy of farming. Consumer demand for healthier, more sustainably produced food is increasing; but many regions lack the infrastructure to satisfy this market. Demand for organic food has outstripped supply and demand for locally produced foods continues to grow as well, boosted by at least 1035 public school districts which are now purchasing some amount of local and regional food. This
BENEFITS OF LOCAL & REGIONAL FOOD MARKETING Higher and more stable farm incomes Local and regional food systems significantly enhance the ...