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Schools get locally-produced foods from a variety of sources

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

USDA encourages school districts to source locally-produced food through its Farm to School Program established as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Data from USDA’s Farm to School Census, reflecting responses from 9,887 public school districts (75 percent of all U.S. public school districts), reveal that 4,322 districts were serving at least some local foods in school year 2011-2012 or started to in 2012-2013. The top local foods categories were fruits and vegetables, milk, and baked goods. Nearly two-thirds of districts participating in farm to school activities purchased local foods through a distributor. A little over 40 percent of these districts obtained local foods directly from farmers and other producers, while 40 percent sourced local foods from food processors and manufacturers. Some States arrange to have State-produced fruits and vegetables included in the commodities donated by USDA for use in school meals. This chart appears in Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems released January 29, 2015.

Food hubs and the farms they serve are located near urban areas

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Farmers have two main channels through which to sell their food locally: directly to consumers (at farmers' markets, roadside stands, farm stores, etc.) and through intermediated marketing channels (defined to include sales to grocers, restaurants, schools, universities, hospitals, and regional distributors). In 2012, 163,675 farmers sold an estimated $6.1 billion in local foods overall, with an estimated $4.8 billion sold by 48,371 farmers through these intermediated marketing channels. The number of dedicated local food distributors, brokers, and aggregators serving these intermediated marketing channels, known as regional food hubs, increased by 288 percent between 2007 and 2014, to a total of 302. By engaging in market outreach activities and offering technical services to producers, food hubs provide markets for midsized farmers, and opportunities for small and beginning farmers to scale-up local food sales without increasing the time farm operators and their households spend on marketing activities. Most food hubs are located in metropolitan areas, and where farms with intermediated sales are most numerous. This map is found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: Report to Congress, January 2015.

Farms engaged in agritourism often pursue other nontraditional activities

Monday, October 20, 2014

Agritourism involves attracting paying visitors to farms by offering farm tours, harvest festivals, hospitality services (such as bed and breakfast), petting zoos, and other attractions. Farms that provide agritourism services, referred to here as agritourism farms, also typically produce agricultural commodities and may provide a variety of other goods and services. Some agritourism farms engage in direct marketing of fresh foods to individual consumers and/or retailers, value-added agriculture (such as the production of beef jerky, fruit jams, jelly, preserves, cider, wine, and floral arrangements), generating renewable energy, and custom work (such as machine hire and hauling for other farms). All of these are considered nontraditional or niche activities that involve innovative uses of farm resources. While to some extent these nontraditional activities complement the farm operation’s commodity and agritourism enterprises, research suggests that they also reflect higher levels of education and connections to the broader economy that are more typical of agritourism farm operators. This chart is found in the October 2014 edition of Amber Waves magazine.

Food assistance program provides low-income seniors with coupons for farmers' markets

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

USDA’s Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) provides low-income seniors—people age 60 and older with household incomes at or below 185 percent of the Federal poverty level—with coupons to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey at farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and community supported agriculture (CSA) programs. In fiscal 2013, 835,795 low-income seniors received $20 to $50 in coupons. Of the 8,158 farmers’ markets in the United States in 2013, 2,330 reported accepting SFMNP, according to USDA’s National Farmers' Market Directory. In 396 of the more than 3,000 U.S. counties, over half of farmers’ markets reported accepting SFMNP coupons, and in another 295 counties, 26 to 50 percent of farmers’ markets reported accepting SFMNP. Areas in the Northeast, Southwest, and along the West Coast have a relatively high percent of farmers’ markets that accept SFMNP coupons. This chart appears in “Food Assistance Program Connects Low-Income Seniors with Fresh Farm Produce” in the August 2014 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Number of U.S. farmers' markets continues to rise

Monday, August 4, 2014

A farmers’ market is a common area where several farmers gather on a recurring basis to sell a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, and other farm products directly to consumers. The number of farmers’ markets rose to 8,284 in 2014, up from 3,706 in 2004 and 1,755 in 1994, according to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Farmers’ markets tend to be concentrated in densely populated areas of the Northeast, Midwest, and West Coast. Generally, farmers’ markets feature items from local food systems, although depending on the definition of “local,” some vendors may come from outside the local region, and some local vendors may not sell locally-produced products. The growing number of farmers’ markets could reflect increased demand for local and regional food products based on consumer perceptions of their freshness and quality, support for the local economy, environmental benefits, or other perceived attributes relative to food from traditional marketing channels. This chart updates one found in the ERS report, Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues, ERR-97, May 2010.

Local and regional food marketing channels find new support in the 2014 Farm Act

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The 2014 Farm Act provides support for local and regional foods across several titles, including nutrition, horticulture, credit, and rural development. Support includes increased consumer access to and marketing of locally and regionally produced food, both via farmer direct-to-consumer outlets and intermediated outlets (e.g., regional distributors, local retailers, or restaurant sales). In particular, the Farmers’ Market and Local Food Promotion Program’s increase in mandatory funding could increase opportunities in the entire local and regional food-supply chain now that intermediaries, including food hubs, can participate. In 2008 (the latest year of analysis available), most local and regional foods were marketed through intermediated channels. Prior to the 2014 Farm Act, support was aimed at local and regional food producers participating in direct-to-consumer sales, rather than those relying on intermediated marketing channels. This chart was adapted from one appearing in the Local and Regional Foods page of Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and Implications on the ERS website.

Proportion of SNAP-accepting farmers' markets varies across U.S. regions

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

In recent years, the number of farmers’ markets that accept benefits from USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has grown—more than tripling between fiscal 2008 and 2012 and making it possible for more SNAP participants to use their benefits to acquire fruits, vegetables, and other local foods from these markets. Of the 8,158 farmers’ markets in the U.S. in 2013, 2,046 reported accepting SNAP, according to USDA’s National Farmers Market Directory. This translates to a national average of 25 percent of farmers’ markets, but the proportion of SNAP-accepting markets is not uniform across regions. In 156 counties, all farmers’ markets reported accepting SNAP benefits and in 242 counties, over half of farmers’ markets reported accepting SNAP. In 1,444 counties (66 percent of counties with at least one farmers’ market), no farmers’ market reported accepting SNAP. Areas in the Northeast, Southwest, and along the West Coast tend to display a relatively high percentage of farmers’ markets that report accepting SNAP. This chart is among the new maps in ERS’s Food Environment Atlas, updated on February 18, 2014.

Farms involved in rural development related activities vary by type of activity

Thursday, March 28, 2013

While rural development efforts generally focus on the nonfarm economy in the United States, over the last 10 years, several USDA Rural Development programs have put increased emphasis on funding farm-related business activities associated with renewable energy, local/regional food industries, and the use of farm and ranch natural resources. Using data from the 2007 Agricultural Resource Management Survey, the characteristics of farms involved in organic farming, value-added agriculture, direct marketing, agritourism, and energy/electricity production are compared in this chart. Household wealth and income are important indicators of financial capacity, or the ability to make financial investments in farm activities. Average farm household net worth was highest for agritourism farms ($2.0 million) and lowest for direct marketing farms ($631,000). Total household income exhibited a different pattern and was highest for energy/electricity farms ($165,000 annually) and value-added farms ($90,000 annually), on average. The income generated by these rural development-related activities is considered part of farm income (which was highest, on average, for energy/electricity and organic farms, and negative for agritourism farms). This chart comes from the ERS report, Farm Activities Associated With Rural Development Initiatives, ERR-134, May 2012.

Market penetration by farmers' markets varies geographically

Friday, January 25, 2013

Farmers’ markets are a significant source of fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, and other items sold directly from the producer or farmer to U.S. consumers. Data from August 2012 show that across much of the United States the number of farmers’ markets continues to grow. Since 2009, counties that showed the largest increase in the number of farmers’ markets per capita tended to be near urban areas, particularly along the East and West coasts and in the historically industrialized parts of the Midwest. But counties where the number has declined relative to population are often adjacent to or surrounded by those that showed the largest growth, suggesting that these local markets are dynamic and heterogeneous despite their geographic similarities. Areas where the density of these markets relative to population is the most stable tend to be in the most sparsely populated parts of the country, likely reflecting a population density too small to make new or additional markets economically viable. This map is from ERS’s Food Environment Atlas.

Farmers' markets concentrated in metro counties

Monday, December 10, 2012

According to USDA’s National Farmers’ Market Directory, 7,828 farmers’ markets were operating in the United States in August 2012. Of the 3,143 U.S. counties, 33 percent had no farmer’s markets, 29 percent had 1 market, 21 percent had 2 or 3 markets, 12 percent had 4 to 10 markets, and 5 percent had more than 10 farmers’ markets. The 143 counties with more than 10 farmers’ markets account for almost 40 percent of the Nation’s farmers’ markets. All but 10 are metro-designated counties where higher population concentrations provide a larger customer base. Half of these 143 counties are located in 6 States—California, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. In 2011, 129 U.S. counties had more than 10 farmers’ markets. This chart appears in the December issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.

Young operators are not uncommon on farms involved in rural development-related on-farm activities

Monday, August 13, 2012

Five on-farm rural development-related activities were examined in a recent ERS study. Using data from the 2007 Agricultural Resource Management Survey, the characteristics, such as operator age, of farms participating in organic farming, value-added agriculture, direct marketing, agritourism, or renewable energy/electricity production were considered. With the exception of agritourism farms, younger farmers (under 45 years of age) were more likely to operate development-related farms than they were for all other farms. Young operators were most common on energy/electricity farms (26 percent). Older farmers (65 years of age and older) played a larger role as operators of agritourism farms (40.4 percent) than for the other farm activities. This chart comes from Farm Activities Associated With Rural Development Initiatives, ERR-134, May 2012.

Marketing channels for locally grown food

Friday, April 6, 2012

USDA's 2008 Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) measured local food sales by asking farm operators whether they sold directly to consumers at farmers' markets, roadside stands, onfarm stores, and community-supported agriculture or through intermediated sales to local grocers, restaurants, and regional distributors during the year. When intermediated sales are combined with farmers' direct-to-consumer sales, the size of the U.S. local food market was $4.8 billion in 2008. Over half of local food sales-$2.7 billion-were from farms selling local foods exclusively through intermediated marketing channels. Farms using both direct-to-consumer and intermediated marketing channels accounted for a quarter of local food sales ($1.2 billion). This chart is found in the December 2011 issue of Amber Waves magazine.

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