Op Ed by Tim Mussack, senior policy associate, Center for Rural Affairs
July 8, 2022: Summer is in full swing and with that comes cookouts and gatherings where food is featured. As you plan your menu, keep local farmers in mind.
Buying locally-produced food strengthens the local economy. According to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, on average, every $100 spent at a locally-owned business results in $45 flowing back into the local community. This is much higher than the $14 that stays in the community when we spend our $100 at a business that isn’t locally owned.
More customers are now choosing to purchase their food from farmers markets, farm stands, local meat processors, and Community Supported Agriculture programs. These purchases favor local farmers over intermediary food corporations. When we eliminate the middleman, the farmer and consumer both win.
Much of this change is taking place in the meat sector. During the COVID-19 pandemic, local meat processors saw an historic demand for their services due to disruptions at larger packing plants. Local customers give small farmers an alternative to selling to the big factories and the chance to establish a connection with people who want a high quality product. The local meat processor also benefits and spurs the local economy from the increased business.
Though highlighted by the pandemic, the desire for local food has been increasing in the past decade, according to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Among the reasons is the nutritional benefit. Because they are able to be harvested, sold and transported in a shorter period of time, customers are learning fresh fruits and vegetables purchased locally are fresher, healthier, and more flavorful.
Whether preparing for a summer gathering or a weeknight meal, customers who purchase locally can be confident that what they are getting is good for their community and their wallet.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.