ALLENTOWN, Pa. — In 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture Nation Ag Statistic Service conducted a “Local Food Marketing Practices Survey” to get a better picture of the direct-to-consumer sales in agriculture.
According to NASS, “the primary purpose of the Local Food Marketing Practices Survey was to produce benchmark statistics on the number of farms that market food directly, the value of these direct sales, and the marketing practices used in conjunction with direct sales.”
In 2015, 167,009 farms sold $8.7 billion in food directly to consumers, local retailers, institutions and local distributors. Direct-to-consumer sales totaled $3 billion or 35 percent of total direct sales. On-farm stores and farmers markets account for 67 percent of those direct-to-consumer sales or $2 billion nationwide. Pennsylvania ranks 4th in the nation with $439 million in direct sales behind California, Michigan and New York.
Fresh food products make up 53 percent of direct-to-consumer sales with Pennsylvania ranked first in the number of farms selling directly to the consumer. Eighty percent of the farms reporting sold all of their directly marketed food within a 100 mile radius of their farm.
If you think about a farm you visited to buy apples, then look at a map and draw circle of a hundred mile radius from that farm, which would cover many places. Now, consider all the farms in our region who produce food marketed locally and draw the same circle around each of them. That is an impressive local food impact.
The reality is that of the food dollars we spend, a little more than 3 percent is on locally produced food. In other words, $3 out of every $100 of our food bill goes to food produced locally. What if we made a conscious effort to commit to spending $10 out of every $100 or 10 percent of our food dollars on locally produced food? Think about the impact that could have to our farms and local economy.
We are in the middle of the dark days of winter but farmers still have food to offer us. Remember to visit some of the many winter farmers markets and on-farm markets in our region. Nothing like local food to brighten our moods and warm us through the winter.
For more information about the survey go to www.agcensus.usda.gov.
— Penn State Extension