ERS Charts of Note
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Monday, October 26, 2015
In 2012, fewer than 5 percent of farms with local food sales were organic farms (either certified organic, or certification-exempt farms because annual organic sales were under $5,000). However, nearly half (46 percent) of all organic farms sold food commodities through direct-to-consumer outlets (such as farmers’ markets and community supported agriculture arrangements), and/or through intermediated marketing channels (such as restaurants and retail outlets). Over the 2007-12 period, direct-to-consumer outlets continued to be the most frequently used local food marketing channel for selling organic—41 percent of organic farms used this marketing channel in 2007 versus 39 percent in 2012. Certification-exempt farms, which often tend to be very small and/or beginning farmers, are also more likely to rely on local markets. In 2012, they were twice as likely as certified organic farms to use direct-to-consumer outlets (63 percent versus 32 percent). This chart is found in Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress, January 2015.
Friday, September 18, 2015
Nontraditional farm activities involve innovative uses of farm resources, such as growing/selling value-added products (such as fruit jams, preserves, cider, wine, floral arrangements, and beef jerky), selling directly to consumers, providing agritourism/recreational services, and using renewable energy producing systems (such as solar panels, wind turbines, and biodiesel). The number of farms engaged in these activities increased from 2007 to 2012, with the largest growth in farms with renewable energy producing systems. In 2012, about 57,000 U.S. farms produced renewable energy, more than double the number in 2007. By 2012, 63 percent of renewable energy producing farms had installed solar panels, which drives this increase. The number of farms that had income from agritourism/recreation increased over the 5-year period by 42 percent, with the largest increase in smaller agritourism farms with annual receipts under $5,000. In 2012, the top States in the share of farms producing and selling value-added products were Vermont (14 percent), New Hampshire (13 percent), and Maine and Rhode Island (with 11 percent each). This chart updates one from the ERS report, Farm Activities Associated With Rural Development Initiatives, ERR-134, May 2012.
Friday, August 7, 2015
A farmers’ market is a common area where several farmers gather on a recurring basis to sell fresh produce and other farm products directly to consumers. The number of farmers’ markets rose to 8,476 in 2015, up from 2,863 in 2000 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.
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increases the purchasing power of eligible, low-income people by providing them with monthly benefits to purchase food at authorized food stores. SNAP benefits can also be used to buy food at authorized farmers’ markets and from direct marketing farmers (farmers who sell agricultural products directly to consumers) who have been licensed by USDA to accept SNAP benefits. The number of authorized markets and farmers has been steadily increasing in recent years. In fiscal 2014, 5,175 farmers’ markets and direct marketing farmers were licensed by USDA to accept SNAP benefits—a 28-percent increase from a year earlier. In fiscal 2014, $18.8 million of SNAP benefits were redeemed at farmers’ markets and direct marketing farms, up from fiscal 2013 redemptions of $17.5 million. This chart updates a chart found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress, January 2015.
Friday, June 5, 2015
In 2012, 34 percent of all U.S. produce farms—those producing vegetables, fruit, or nuts—sold food through local food marketing channels, whereas only 3 percent of field/other crop farms and 8 percent of livestock/livestock product farms did so. The nearly 48,000 produce farmers with local sales in 2012 represented 29 percent of all local food farmers but generated $3.1 billion, or 51 percent of all local food sales. 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). Among local food farmers who elected to sell through direct-to-consumer outlets, intermediated marketing channels, or a mixture of both, produce farmers generated higher local food sales per farm than did field/other crop farms or livestock/livestock product farms. This suggests that opportunities to market locally are important to produce farmers, and their disproportionate presence (through local food sales) shapes the profile of a typical local food farm. This chart is found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: Report to Congress, January 2015.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
According to USDA’s Farm to School Census, 36 percent of the U.S. public school districts that completed the questionnaire reported serving at least some locally produced foods in school lunches or breakfasts during school years 2011-12 or 2012-13. While fruits and vegetables topped the list of local foods served in schools in 2011-12, 45 percent of the school districts that used local foods reported serving locally produced milk, and 27 percent reported serving locally produced baked goods. Some States have State-produced foods, such as fruits and vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy products included in the products donated by USDA for use in school meals (a program called USDA Foods). The DOD Fresh Program allows districts to use USDA funds to obtain fresh fruits and vegetables through the Department of Defense, which provides information to districts on foods that are sourced locally. This chart appeared in “Many U.S. School Districts Serve Local Foods” in the March 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 established the USDA Farm to School Program to encourage school districts to use locally produced food for school-provided breakfasts and lunches. USDA’s Farm to School Census, covering school years 2011-12 and 2012-13, found that 36 percent of the 9,887 public school districts that responded to the Census served locally produced food in their school meal programs, and an additional 9 percent planned to serve local foods in the future. Many States have legislation encouraging local sources of foods for school meals, and in a handful of States (Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, Vermont, Maine, and Hawaii) more than 80 percent of school districts that completed the questionnaire reported serving some local foods. In 10 other States, 20 percent or fewer districts reported serving local foods. Some of the hurdles to serving local foods cited by school districts included lack of year-round availability of key items, high prices for local foods, and lack of availability of local foods from primary vendors. This map appears in “Many U.S. School Districts Serve Local Foods” in the March 2015 issue of ERS’s Amber Waves magazine.
Thursday, March 19, 2015
Local foods is one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture, and the number of local food marketing outlets is increasing. Growing demand for local foods in the United States is, at least in part, the result of consumer interest in environmental and community concerns, including supporting local farmers/economies and increasing access to healthful foods. American farmers and consumers are increasingly finding more opportunities to sell and buy food locally. As of 2014, there were 8,268 farmers’ markets in the United States, up 180 percent since 2007, despite no growth in real farmer-to-consumer (direct) sales between 2007 and 2012. Local food sales may be increasingly indirect, that is through intermediaries rather than farmer-to-consumer. The number of regional food hubs, (enterprises that aggregate locally sourced food to meet wholesale, retail, institutional and even individual demand) has increased almost threefold since 2007, to a total of 302 in 2014. Farm to school programs have multiple objectives, ranging from nutrition education to serving locally-sourced food in school meals. According to the USDA Farm to School Census, 4,322 school districts have farm to school programs, a 430-percent increase since 2007. This chart is found in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress, AP-068, January 2015.
Tuesday, March 3, 2015
ERS researchers recently used quantity and expenditure data from a nationally representative survey of households and their retail food purchases to analyze prices of selected fruits and vegetables at direct-to-consumer (DTC) outlets, which include farmers’ markets, roadside fruit stands, and onfarm sales. Average prices at DTC venues exhibited regional variation for fresh tomatoes, potatoes, and apples, which were among the most popular fresh produce items purchased by Nielsen Homescan panelists in 2006. (2006 is the latest year that has detailed information on unpackaged and nonstandard-weight foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.) Prices at DTC outlets in 2006 were lowest in the Rocky Mountain region and highest (for tomatoes and potatoes) in the Far West. DTC apple prices were highest in the Mid-Atlantic. DTC tomato prices varied most, ranging from $0.79 per pound in the Rocky Mountains to $1.30 per pound in the Far West. A version of this chart appears in the ERS report, Trends in U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress, January 2015.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.