You can probably think of a few good reasons to buy local produce, but the latest is quite compelling: It’s good for your local economy.
Spending within your “foodshed” increases economic opportunities and makes you a more engaged consumer. In a world where people are often distanced from the source of their food, it turns out that where you buy your tomatoes actually matters — possibly even more than you realize.
While many have surmised that buying locally carries obvious economic benefits — and some studies have explored these effects – the recent news about local food comes from the University of California, Davis, a highly reputed school when it comes to agricultural research. Researchers took a look at a hyperlocal farming economy: the area around Sacramento, California.
The Central Valley of California produces a tremendous amount of agricultural products, but it might come as a surprise to learn that buying locally in the form of direct sales from farmer to consumer makes up only a small portion of the economy.
It should probably be a bigger one.
The researchers found that when consumers bought their food straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak, their dollars went twice as far as they did in settings like grocery stores. In one example, researchers found that farmers doing business in direct sales created three times as many jobs as those who sold to distributors and other third parties.
That makes a huge difference to a local economy, providing more people with consistent employment as farmers build their businesses.
It’s not just jobs, though.
In the course of examining Sacramento-area farms, researchers found that those who sell locally tend to buy locally as well. That includes farming equipment, fertilizer, livestock feed and seeds, among many other items.
This tendency creates a sort of closed loop that keeps money in the community, rather than allowing it to flow out to multinational corporations outside the area. In turn, local businesses can build their customer base, hire more people and spread their own wealth within the community.
Local food advocates already know that local purchasing produces a smaller environmental footprint and less waste. Additionally, buying local produce supports small farmers and allows consumers greater control over the source of their food.
The economic benefits found in this study present another compelling reason to buy directly from farmers, and fortunately, there are a growing number of ways to do just that.
Consumers no longer need to go out to a farm or a farm stand, though direct sales are often available through those traditional routes. They don’t even have to go to a farmers’ market, although many people enjoy the experience of wandering through stalls, meeting famers and trying produce. Joining a CSA, which offers curated boxes of produce delivered to a central pickup spot or directly to consumers’ homes, makes it a cinch to help local farms thrive.
This is one of those delightful cases where doing the right thing intersects with economic pragmatism. If you support local economic growth, you can play a very direct role in choosing where your dollars end up. You can also make it easier for more disadvantaged people to do the same by providing them with jobs, lowering the price of food by increasing demand and making more cost-efficient scalability possible.
So put down that supermarket peach and see if there’s a CSA in your area!
Photo credit: lukestehr