Local Foods Becoming Big Business

Once thought of as the domain of health nuts and hippies, the buy-local movement has gone mainstream and farmers in the U.S. are starting to see some green.

According to a recent USDA report, in 2008 American farmers made nearly $5 billion selling fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets and to local supermarkets and restaurants. While they remain just 2 percent of the nation’s agricultural sales, locally grown foods are continuing to grow in popularity among the public and farmers as awareness grows about the benefits of buying local.

Agriculture is the top industry in Ohio — contributing more than $107 billion annually to the state’s economy. The Ohio Department of Agriculture showcases locally made and grown products — everything from fruit to eggs to wine — with the “Ohio Proud” program. The program, which launched in 1993, has grown from 180 participants in 2008 to more than 470 today.

“The growth is attributed to the fact that consumers are very much interested in buying local products because they want to know who is growing their food and where it comes from,” said Lori Panda, senior manager for the Ohio Proud program in a recent Columbus Dispatch article. “Not only do Ohio consumers want to support Ohio businesses, they’re also concerned about food safety.”

According to Food Routes, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting local foods, the benefits of buying and eating locally grown or produced foods are many and include:
  • A stronger local economy — Buying local keeps dollars circulating in your community
  • Fresh products — Local food is fresher than food shipped long distances from other states and countries and many believe the taste is better, too
  • Supports family farms — With each local food purchase, you ensure that more of the money you spend for food goes to the farmer
  • It’s good for the environment — Local food doesn’t have to travel far, so there’s less carbon dioxide emissions and packing materials
  • Knowledge of how your food is grown — Knowing where your food comes from and how it’s grown, i.e., organic, pesticide-free, etc., enables you to make personal food choices for your family

Photo obtained from: portlandmonthlymag.com

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