There are almost two million farms in the USA. About 80% of those are small farms, and a large percentage are family-owned.
More and more of these farmers are now selling their products directly to the public. They do this through Farmers Markets, Food Cooperatives, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs.
By purchasing fresh produce and goods from a local farmer, you can help to maintain a healthy environment, a vibrant community, and build a strong and sustainable local economy. Judith Schwartz explains that when you buy local more money stays in the community.
The New Economics Foundation compared what happens when people buy produce at a supermarket vs. a local farmer’s market or CSA program and found that twice the money stayed in the community when folks bought locally (Time.com). A few more reasons to eat local:
- The produce is fresher than foods shipped in and sold at the supermarket
- Seasonal foods are at their peak taste, are the most abundant, and the least expensive
- The travel from farm to plate has less susceptibility to harmful contamination
Apples to Oranges: Farm Stand Basics
Farmers Market: a market usually held out-of-doors, in public spaces, where farmers can sell produce to the public. Consumers have access to locally grown, farm-fresh produce, and enables farmers the opportunity to develop a personal relationship with their customers and cultivate consumer loyalty.
Food Cooperatives (Coop): worker or customer-owned businesses that provide grocery items of the highest quality and best value to their members. Coops can take the shape of retail stores or buying clubs. Food coops are committed to consumer education, product quality, and member control, and usually support local communities by selling produce grown locally by family farms.
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”). Shares typically consist of a box of seasonal vegetables, but may also include various breads, flowers, eggs, meat, cheese, honey, and other farm products.