Local produce = $4.8 billion

the produce aisle

Image by katiescrapbooklady via Flickr

A new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicates that local fruits and veggies are a nearly five-billion-dollar industry. As described in this report from NPR, “Though the number of farmer’s markets doubled between 1998 and 2009, the bulk of the new sales came from supermarkets and restaurants.”

Madison may be especially active in this regard. It does seem easier these days to find vegetables and fruits (not to mention meat, eggs, and dairy) from local farms at a variety of outlets around town, from restaurants to grocery stores to convenience stores. (As one example, I know that the locally owned little store in a friend’s downtown neighborhood stocks Sassy Cow products.)

There’s even a Wisconsin mention this story from Huff Post Food about the USDA report: “On his 1,800 acres near Friesland, Wis., Larry Alsum, 58, grows several varieties of potatoes that he sells mostly to grocers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana. He also handles wholesale distribution for farmers who grow everything from cabbage to sweet corn, squash, cucumbers and peppers. He says his operation has blossomed into a $50 million business – roughly double what it was a decade or so ago – with a focus on locally grown food. Perhaps only one in five consumers actually cares what that means, he said, but it’s more than did just a few years ago.”

As the NPR story notes, though, “Although the $4.8 billion number sounds big, it represents just 2 percent of American agricultural sales. The rest — 98 percent — comes largely from sales of big commodities like soybeans and corn.”

Click here to access the full USDA report, or check out the PDF summary.

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