According to the United States Department of Agriculture, unlike organic food, there is no legal or universally accepted definition of “local food.” Most researchers agree that eating locally means “minimizing the distance between production and consumption, especially in relation to the modern mainstream food system.” According to the 2008 Farm Act, a product can be marketed as locally or regionally produced if it is purchased by the consumer within 400 miles of its original source, or within state boundaries. Some stipulate, however, that “locally grown food” must be produced and sold within county lines, while others say it can be within 100 miles of its original source.1,2
There are several benefits to purchasing and consuming locally grown food.1,2
It benefits local economies.
Regional farms can create additional jobs and labor income for the local community, as well as increase the use of services provided by other local businesses (e.g., machinery, feed, fertilizer, financial services providers). Additionally, because local farmers are able to sell directly to the consumer, they are able to eliminate the “middle man,”which means they are able to keep more of their income, compared to large, commercial farms, who must spend a portion of their income paying middlemen service providers. This helps to preserve small farms and sustain rural communities. In other words, more money remains in the local community (65%) when you buy food from a local farm than when you shop at a large chain store (40%).
It benefits the environment.
Arguably the most important environmental benefit of small-scale farming is its positive impact on the biodiversity and sustainability of the regional land. Additionally, farms that sell directly to consumers (most of which are considered small farms) are more likely to use environmentally friendly production methods and less product packaging.
It benefits our health.
Locally grown food has been shown to have less food safety problems, compared to food from large, commercial farm networks, because the food production is decentralized (i.e., only occurs on a local level). Locally grown food can increase the availability of healthy food items in the community and encourages people to make healthier food choices. For example, the USDA’s Farm to School programs have been found to be effective in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption among children in schools. Local food systems typically offer food that is fresher, less processed, and more nutrient-dense (nutrients start to break down as soon as a vegetable or fruit is picked) than food from large chain operations (e.g., because large-chain–produced food spends more time in transit). Additionally, buying food at the local farmer’s market allows the consumer to talk directly with farm representatives and ask questions about how the food was produced (e.g., regarding use of pesticides, herbicides, growth hormones, and fertilizers and animal treatment).
It increases local food security.
Local farming increases long-term, sustainable food security at the community level. Food security means that everyone in the community has reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Local farming helps the community avoid having to rely on food sources that are very far away and over which they have no control.
SOURCE: 1) Martinez S, et al. Local food systems: concepts, impacts, and issues. ERR 97, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, May 2010. https://permanent.access.gpo.gov/lps125302/ ERR97.pdf. Accessed 23 Jan 2019; 2) Roslynn Brain Department of Environment & Society. The local food movement: definitions, benefits & resources. Utah State University Extension Sustainability. Sep 2012. https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent. cgi?article=2693&context=extension_curall. 23 Jan 2019. NHR
What is community-supported agriculture?
Community-supported agriculture or CSA is a community of people who pledge support to a local farm operation so that the farmland becomes, either legally or spiritually, the community’s farm, with the growers
and consumers providing mutual support and sharing the risks and benefits of food production.
In a traditional CSA model…
- Members share the risks and benefits of food production with the farmer.
- Members buy a share of the farm’s production before each growing season.
- In return, they receive regular distributions of the farm’s bounty throughout the season.
- The farmer receives advance working capital, gains financial security, earns better crop prices, and benefits from the direct marketing plan.
Find Local Food and CSAs Near You
- Local Harvest: https://www.localharvest. org/csa/
- AgMap: http://agmap.psu.edu/ (Search the Business category for the term community supported agriculture or use the Advanced Search to find a local CSA.)
- Wilson College, Robyn Van En Center, CSA Farm Database: http://www2.wilson.edu/ CsaSearch/
Local Food Directories
- US Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Marketing Service. Includes directories
of farmers markets, on-farm markets, CSAs, and food hubs. https://www.ams. usda.gov/services/local-regional/food- directories
- ATTRA – The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. https:// attra.ncat.org/attra-pub/local_food/ search.php
SOURCE: National Agricultural Library site. Community Supported Agriculture. United States Department of Agriculture. Reviewed September 2018. https://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/community- supported-agriculture#what. Accessed 32 Jan 2019