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Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues

by Stephen Martinez, Michael S. Hand, Michelle Da Pra, Susan Pollack, Katherine Ralston, Travis Smith, Stephen Vogel, Shellye Clark, Loren Tauer, Luanne Lohr, Sarah A. Low, and Constance Newman

Economic Research Report No. (ERR-97) 87 pp, May 2010

Cover Image for ERR97
This comprehensive overview of local food systems explores alternative definitions of local food, estimates market size and reach, describes the characteristics of local consumers and producers, and examines early indications of the economic and health impacts of local food systems. There is no consensus on a definition of “local” or “local food systems” in terms of the geographic distance between production and consumption. But defining “local” based on marketing arrangements, such as farmers selling directly to consumers at regional farmers’ markets or to schools, is well recognized. Statistics suggest that local food markets account for a small, but growing, share of U.S. agricultural production. For smaller farms, direct marketing to consumers accounts for a higher percentage of their sales than for larger farms. Findings are mixed on the impact of local food systems on local economic development and better nutrition levels among consumers, and sparse literature is so far inconclusive about whether localization reduces energy use or greenhouse gas emissions.

Keywords: Local food systems, farmers’ markets, direct-to-consumer marketing, direct-toretail/foodservice marketing, community supported agriculture, farm to school programs, Farmers’ Market Promotion Program, food miles

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Last updated: Monday, December 03, 2012

For more information contact: Stephen Martinez, Michael S. Hand, Michelle Da Pra, Susan Pollack, Katherine Ralston, Travis Smith, Stephen Vogel, Shellye Clark, Loren Tauer, Luanne Lohr, Sarah A. Low, and Constance Newman

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