What is in this article?:
- The size of the U.S. local food market was $4.8 billion in 2008.
- Local food marketing channels vary with farm size, with smaller farms dominating direct-to-consumer sales and larger farms dominating sales through grocers and other intermediaries.
Farm households selling locally earned, on average, 17 percent less off-farm labor income than the average farm household not engaged in local food sales, suggesting these farmers are willing to forgo the opportunity to earn additional household income off the farm in order to grow and sell foods locally. In addition, almost two-thirds of local food producers reported that local food sales accounted for at least 75 percent of their total farm sales in 2008, suggesting the importance of local food sales to gross sales for these farms.
Farms reporting local food sales require more operator time than do farms without local food sales. The average farm operator with local food sales devoted 1.3 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs (1 FTE job equals 2,000 hours worked annually) to the farm, compared with 0.9 FTE job for farm operators without local food sales. This pattern held across farm sizes up to $250,000 in annual sales, as multiple members of the farm household may work as operators. For large farms above this sales level, there was no difference between the FTE operators on farms with and without local food sales. Since the operators of large farms often market local food through intermediated channels, they may not face the same degree of labor intensity as operators selling directly to consumers.
Small and midsized farms with local food sales were more likely to consider farming as the principal operator’s primary occupation than comparably sized farms without local food sales. Overall, farm operators selling locally were 30 percent more likely than other operators to list their primary occupation as farming; small-farm operators selling food locally were 50 percent more likely to do so. As with FTE requirements, the difference in stated primary occupation between farms selling locally and those that do not disappears among operators of large farms.