Local Food :: Production and Consumption :: Building a Local Food Economy :: Organic Agriculture

Building a Local Food Economy Farm2ForkWeMakeIt.jpg

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) A partnership between consumers and farmers in which consumers pay for farm products in advance and farmers commit to supplying sufficient quantity, quality and variety of products. This type of arrangement can be initiated by the farmer or by a group of consumers (UC Small Farm Program, http://www.sfc.ucdavis.edu/AGRITOURISM/definition.html).
Local or sustainable food is a "collaborative effort to build more locally based, self-reliant food economies - one in which sustainable food production, processing, distribution, and consumption is integrated to enhance the economic, environmental and social health of a particular place"(Feenstra, G. (2002) Creating space for sustainable food systems: lessons from the field. Agriculture and Human Values. 19(2). 99-106).
The Slow Food Movement is an international movement founded by Carlo Petrini in 1986. It strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine and promotes farming of plants, seeds and livestock characteristics of the local ecosystem. It was the first established part of the broader Slow Food Movement. The movement has since expanded globally to over 100,000 members in 132 countries (Wikipedia contributors, "Slow Food," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Slow_Food&oldid=356684601 (accessed April 18, 2010).

What is this measure?

This measure represents the value of agricultural products produced and sold directly through regional farmer's markets, on-farm sales, Community Supported Agriculture programs and roadside stands. Separating direct sales sources by county, rather than looking at attendance or sales receipts, avoids the skewing of data due to out-of-county purchases.

Why is this important?

According the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Carolinians spend about $35 billion a year on food. If individuals spent just 10 percent, or $1.05 per day, of their existing food dollars on local foods, approximately $3.5 billion would be available in the local economy. And part of that $3.5 billion would flow back to farmers and food businesses. Greater spending locally can also increase the economic activity at the regional and community level, which can translate into jobs.

Large-scale agricultural production and government subsidies afford less expensive food for customers, but most farmers do not reap the benefits; profitability for the farmer is minimal because farmers only receive 20 cents of every dollar Americans spend on food (Farm Policy Facts, http://www.farmpolicyfacts.org/all_facts.cfm). Farmer's markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture programs provide farmers with an avenue to sell produce directly and more profitably. This marketing system significantly reduces time to market, can reduce costs to both the farmer and to the environment, and allows the farmer to keep a greater percentage of the sales revenue.

Agriculture in Triangle counties is presently experiencing a revitalization coupled with a shift to niche marketing, fueled by a growing demand for organic and local products. This indicator provides an indirect measure of the market size of local food movement in the Triangle since the number and location of local food sources is a means of measuring of community access to fresh, healthy food. The creation of local processing facilities and marketing methods allows farmers to meet the growing demand for local, sustainably produced food in the Triangle.

What does this measure show?

In 2010, every county includes a number of farms that provide the community with the opportunity to buy fresh, local food through farmer's markets, roadside stands, community supported agriculture programs, wineries and restaurants featuring local cuisine (Figure 1). Grass-fed livestock is also available through meat buying clubs, markets and restaurants catering to the Slow Food Movement. It should be noted that some farms might appear in more than one category above, however, the intention of this measure is to show the range of offerings in each county.


Limitations and Further Research

Although the value of agriculture products marketed directly to individuals is not necessarily an indicator of the market size of local food consumption, we assume this consumption is proportional to local food sales. Despite current efforts to measure the scope of the local food movement, this is the only measure that currently provides insight to the local food economy in the Triangle.

A two-year UNC-Chapel Hill project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will produce an ethnographic and social network study of food action networks in four NC localities. This report will be available in 2012.

The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) recently published A Guide to Building North Carolina’s Sustainable Local Food Economy that provides goals and strategies to put North Carolina on the fast track to achieving a sustainable local and regional food system. With its diverse agricultural economy, superior educational system and adaptable workforce, North Carolina is well positioned to lead the nation.

Author: Aimee Schmidt, NCSU (CNR) graduate student 2010.05.06

Reviewers: Tandy Jones, TLC; Dr. Nancy Creamer, NCSU

Technical Notes

Data gleaned from websites maintained by the NC Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (http://ncagr.gov/markets/facilities/index.htm and http://www.ncfarmfresh.com/CertifiedStands.asp); Local Harvest, Inc., an organic and local food source website that maintains a definitive and reliable 'living' public nationwide directory of small farms, farmer's markets, and other local food sources to help people find products from family farms, local sources of sustainably grown food (http://www.localharvest.org/); and, the Growing Small Farms website maintained by Debbie Roos, Chatham County Agricultural Extension Service agent promoting awareness and understanding of sustainable agriculture (http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/chatham/ag/SustAg/aboutGSF.html). All sites were accessed in March 2010 and all data are updated monthly. Data and metadata are available here: LocalFoodOutlets.xlsx