A large share of food in Minnesota comes out of an industrialized food system that places a priority on processed foods produced in massive quantities on highly mechanized, chemically intensive farms. Thus, local foods account for only a fraction of what we eat today.
The good news is that interest in locally grown organic food is increasing each day. According to the USDA, local food sales are estimated to top $10 billion this year. The number of farmers’ markets nationwide has now exceeded 30,000. Over 200,000 farms sell directly to consumers.
Minnesota Local Farmers
According to a report from Minnesota 2020, farmers’ markets contribute over $100 million to the state economy and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
The number of Minnesota farmers’ markets has nearly tripled in five years to over 400 according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. CSAs have grown to over 300 over the last three years. Over 20,000 Minnesotans were served by CSAs over the past twelve months.
And this accounts for only part of our homegrown harvest. Foods from local farmers are now served in 123 school districts, reaching 60 percent of the state’s kids.
Why the Increase in Local Farms?
There are several good reasons for the booming interest in local foods:
● Locally grown foods naturally taste fresher and better.
● Locally grown food offers more diversity and heritage foods.
● Locally grown food is healthier because it doesn’t lose its nutrients while in transit.
● Local farmers do not have to utilize equipment and transportation that is harmful to the environment.
● The local economy is stronger when residents support local farmers and farmers’ markets.
● Locally grown food runs a lower risk of contamination due to a reduced need for growing, processing, and transportation.
● More farmers have the opportunity to make a living as farmers when the farms are smaller and the farmers are supported by local residents.
● Farmers’ markets instill a sense of community by garnering support from locals.
Distinguishing Local Food
Although there is no precise definition for local food, most consumers understand “local” to mean anything produced within 400 miles of where you live. If that’s the case, then the farms that stretch from Chicago to Omaha to Winnipeg could apply and be considered local. Some people with a more conservative approach would limit the local radius to anything within 100 miles of where you live. The most extreme interpretation of the word would limit the radius to only farmers and markets within your hometown.
From an agricultural perspective, the point of buying local is to support farmers that can provide organic, locally grown, healthy food directly to consumers without the need for large corporations, processing plants, or third-party agencies that can taint the food in any way.
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