Locally grown food on a pallet
Pallets of fresh produce are ready for transport at the Common Market food hub. As farmers continue to look for other opportunities to move more local product to consumers, they are beginning to consider distribution models like local and regional food hubs, multi-farm community supported agriculture operations, or other cooperative marketing structures.

Local food sales on the rise

More than 167,000 U.S. farms locally produced and sold food through direct marketing practices, resulting in $8.7 billion in revenue in 2015.

More than 167,000 U.S. farms locally produced and sold food through direct marketing practices, resulting in $8.7 billion in revenue in 2015, according to the results from the first "Local Food Marketing Practices Survey" released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. The report results cover both fresh and value-added foods, such as meat and cheese.

Farms selling food directly to institutions and intermediates, such as wholesalers that locally branded the product or food hubs, brought in the most revenue, at $3.4 billion. The next category, at $3 billion in sales, was from approximately 115,000 operations with direct-to-consumer sales, such as on-farm stores and farmers markets. Sales directly to retailers were $2.3 billion from over 23,000 operations nationwide.

The top five states by value of total direct food sales were:

  • California, $2,869 million.
  • Michigan, $459 million.
  • New York, $441 million.
  • Pennsylvania, $439 million.
  • Wisconsin, $431 million.

Most farms selling directly to consumers sold through outlets such as farmers markets and on-farm stores. Pennsylvania led the U.S. in the number of farms selling directly to consumers, with more than 6,000 operations engaged in direct-to-consumer sales. California led in sales, earning $467 million. Only 8% of farms selling directly to consumers across the nation did so via online marketplaces, though 73% of all farms using direct marketing practices had internet access last year.

undefinedTotal Farm Sales of Food by Marketing Channel 2015

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Source: USDA

The survey also concluded that more than 80% of all direct market food sales occurred within 100 miles of the farm and that most farms selling to consumers were fewer than 20 miles from their largest-grossing marketplace.

Approximately 300,000 people were involved in making decisions for the farms that sold directly in 2015. Of these, 62% were men and 38% were women – a higher proportion of women than among all farms, according to data from the 2012 "Census of Agriculture." The survey also found that 77% of direct market operations were run by established farmers who had farmed for 10 or more years and that 14% were U.S. military veterans.

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