Farmers markets double, local food sales to hit $7 billion, USDA says


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Locally produced foods could pull in $7 billion this year, according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

Whether sold directly to consumers through farmers markets, roadside stands or middlemen such as supermarkets or restaurants, the market for food grown nearby is growing fast. The industry hit $4.8 billion in sales in 2008, according to the report.


Sales made straight from farms to buyers doubled in two decades to $1.2 billion from $650 million in the 1990s, according to the report. Local food sold through intermediary retail channels pulled in $2.7 billion.

The surge may coincide with increasing interest in healthful eating and artisan cooking, trends that have encouraged major companies such as Burger King and Domino’s Pizza to focus on fresh ingredients.

The USDA found that more than 80% of local food producers are small farms making less than $50,000 in gross annual sales. But large farms pulling in $250,000 or more, which represent 5% of the farms with local food offerings, account for in 92% of the associated revenue.

Demand is strongest in metropolitan areas, especially in the Northeast and on the West Coast. The number of farmers markets doubled to 5,274 nationally in 2009 from 2,756 in 1998, according to the report.

The USDA also believes that farms may be hiring more staffers to support their local food efforts.



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-- Tifany Hsu