Eating Local Really Helps Farmers and Economy

02 Jun

“The looming economic recession that kept Americans on the edge of their seats for the past months has been entirely and unexpectedly averted by an infusion of revenue generated at local farmers markets,” said a grinning Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve.

I try to do most of my shopping at a farmers markets. I like walking around, outside and picking out my fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs, meats and dairy products. I also think that the food at farmers markets is are healthier, fresher and better for the environment. Some where in my head I think that I am helping the farmers that I meet every week when I go to the farmer’s market. But since my natural meat stand did so poorly when I worked at a green market I never really thought about what kind of impact my purchases were having on their livelihood or the American economy in general. 

Amy Farnsworth is a staff writer at The Christian Science Monitor and her recent post talks about an increase in the number of farmer’s markets open during the winter months. She says, “This desire is one of the main reasons farmers’ markets are increasing, up some 300 in the two years between August 2006 and 2008, as the total number surpassed 4,500 according to the US Department of Agriculture. And it’s helping sustain about 750 farmers’ markets that operate between the months of November and March.” 

750 farmers – that’s a lot. Maybe it doesn’t sound like a lot but according to the USDA there were more than 6 million farms in the United States prior to 1950. Currently there are roughly 2 million farms in the United States. Statistically, an increase of 750  farms is not huge, but it is reversing a trend that has been occurring for more than 5o years.  

More specifically reported, “consumers in southwest Wisconsin spend $208 million buying food from outside the region. If consumers purchased 25 percent of their food directly from local farmers, it would produce $33 million of new farm income every year. That would offset current farm losses.”  This model only requires that people purchase 25% of their food from farmers. I’m not sure how realistic it is to think people will purchase much more than this, but even if people only purchase 25% locally the implications are huge. 

So, farmer’s markets are helping farmers, which is important because farms made less money in 2008 than they did in 1929. However, farmers make up a very small percentage of our work force and  a recent study conducted by Iowa State University for the Iowa Farmers’ Market Association reports that farmers markets in the state contributed up to $20 million in sales to the economy and created another $12 million in direct and indirect economic activity.

Who knew that eating healthy and fresh foods that were good for the environment could be so “patriotic”?  So to do my part, I am personally going to try and buy at least 25% of my food from farmers markets. And I think you should do the same.


Posted by on June 2, 2009 in Sustainable Agriculture


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5 responses to “Eating Local Really Helps Farmers and Economy

  1. denisedthornton

    June 2, 2009 at 10:17 am

    I am fortunate to live in Madison WI, a city with summer farmers markets almost every day of the week, and the main farmers market moves INDOORS for the winter months. At that point, it loses most of its customers. It used to lose me. Two years ago, when my husband and I decided to see just how locally we could eat, we followed it in. Thanks to the recent innovation of hoop houses, we ate frost-sweetened spinach and other tangy greens all winter long. Added to the cheeses, honey, apples, root vegetables, mushrooms, preserves, baked goods, and even locally-grown wheat flour and sunflower oil — we did not feel deprived. (exceptions still importing fair trade coffee and chocolate)
    We know and like the people who grow our food. We are now working to become food producers ourselves on land we have west of Madison. Deciding to eat locally has changed the course of our lives in so many wonderful ways.
    We started out to do local agriculture a good turn and find we are the ones benefiting.

    • aaanimals

      June 2, 2009 at 10:33 am

      That is amazing. Thank you so much for telling me. I will add your blog to my blogroll. Good luck with your farming and let me know if there is anything else I can help you with.

  2. Limbo

    June 2, 2009 at 11:12 am

    Which farmers markets do you frequent (if that’s okay to ask on a blog… lol)? I love Eastern Market this year, but nothing beats Dupont in the world! I love that buy eating locally (what do that call it? “Locavores”?) you not only sustain your community financially, but the cut down on transportation pollutants really makes a difference in the bigger picture 🙂

    • aaanimals

      June 2, 2009 at 11:36 am

      I go to Dupont market on Sunday. Eastern Market is not all local, but its still really good for farmers. The Dupont market is located in Foggy Bottom and Mt. Pleasant and Convention Center area on different nights of the week. I havent been, but since Im going out of town this weekend, I might try to go next week. I also went to a farmers market on the way back from the DE beach a few weeks ago.

      And finally, I am going to try They deliver. I wanted to do a CSA but I’d need to split it and I couldn’t find anyone.

  3. Limbo

    June 3, 2009 at 10:18 am

    A CSA?

    I’d love to check out the Dupont market during the week – my Sundays are always packed these days. Let me know if you’d like company (as long as it not a Weds or Thursday, thanks to the play *grumbles*).


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