USDA reports more local food sales in latest survey

Direct farm sales of local foods and the number of farms selling directly are increasing.

In USDA’s latest Local Food Marketing Survey, sales of local foods sold directly by farmers totaled $9 billion, up three percent from 2015, with more than 147,000 operators selling directly, up 12 percent.

Community Food Systems Educator Mariel Borgman with Michigan State University tells Brownfield pandemic brought greater emphasis to buying local.

“We saw CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms selling out faster than they ever have before and we also saw more participation in agrotourism than we’ve ever seen,” she says.

But, Borgman says since the survey was done in 2020, “It’s really interesting to see if these trends will continue now that folks have made a shift in their behavior.”

Nearly 80 percent of farms in the survey sold to consumers from an on-farm stand or store, followed by farmers’ markets.  Borgman says she’s seeing growth in that area along with sales to institutions and intermediaries, like food hubs or wholesalers, which generate the largest revenues for farms.

Michigan ranks fourth in direct sales to consumers with $555 million in direct marketings.

California is the largest state accounting for direct farm sales while the northeast represents the largest region of the U.S. with such sales.

USDA considers food products traveling less than 400 miles as locally or regionally produced however nearly 80 percent of farms are selling within 100 miles of their operations.

The agency says when compared to the 2017 Census, there is an increasing number of younger producers and females selling directly.

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