Local market for local goods saturated?

The Localvore movement has left the launching pad!  The dollar amount of ag products sold directly to Vermont consumers increased 136% between 2002-2007, totaling out to $22,863,000 in sales!   The number of VT Farms selling directly to consumers in 2007 was 1,474   (21.1% of total in state), up from 1163 in 2002.  Perusing the 2007 US Census of Agriculture, as those of us stuck in offices on beautiful summer days are wont to do, I was blown away by these stats.  But does this mean the market is saturated?  Is it time to circle the wagons and protect your market share?  Or are you too late? The opportunity is gone to enter into this tight marketplace. Well, let’s put this fantastic number of ag product sold directly to consumers, in perspective–  $22,863,000 is only an estimated 2.7% of the total food Vermonters purchased for eating at home. Well, 620,460 Vermonters sure do eat and spend a lot on food!   The more pressing concern right now might be how to get the local food to the people.

RAFFLSome innovative organizations are working on just this issue.  The Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL) is working to increase access to local foods and support the economic viability of area farms through education of the public and by facilitating new and expanded markets, distribution mechanisms, and processing infrastructure for farms and farm products in the Rutland Region.  Such projects as their Green Mountain Food Hub are looking at food systems in the region and developing a strategic plan for change.

IntervaleThe Intervale Center in Burlington has many programs working to increase access to local foods, including an innovative Farm Incubator Program.  The Farms Program leases land, equipment, greenhouses, irrigation and storage facilities to small independent farms. Each year, these farms produce fresh produce on 120 acres of land in Burlington.  The Intervale has become a model for organizations around the country and within Vermont striving to support new farmers and a strong local food system.

Valley Farm and FoodVital Communities has been producing the Valley Food & Farm Locally Grown Guide since 2005 and coordinating a “Flavors of the Valley” local agriculture fair for 8 years.  These efforts have increased connections between farmers in the Upper Valley and their community.

Developing local markets for local goods remains a work in progress, but the good news is– It’s getting done!  Stay tuned, get involved, and keep growing…620,460 mouths are a lot to feed!

About Jessie Schmidt

Ag and Community Program Coordinator for the University of Vermont Extension.
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