by Francis P.
Koster Ed. D.
major supermarket chain I was able to speak to told me they were having trouble
obtaining reliable large shipments of locally grown items. A great job creation opportunity exists.
is a competitive challenge for the supermarkets, because research has shown
that almost 30% of shoppers say they would consider switching to another chain
if their favorite store does not carry an adequate amount of locally produced
food. 70% of these shoppers say they
would pay a premium of up to 10% to for locally grown food, increasing local farmers’
order to satisfy this demand, a few industry leaders have shown the way.
Food City grocery chain worked with the Virginia Farm Bureau, and successfully
grew its sales of "locally grown" products to about 20% of all
vegetable sales, increasing area farmers income from half a million dollars a
year in 2000 to ten times that much in 2011.
a leader in this area, Walmart has set a goal of to sell 9% locally grown
produce by 2015.
An organization that has taken positive steps to help farmers
seize this opportunity is Pilot Mountain Pride, located in the Winston-Salem
area of North Carolina. They worked with
area small farmers and Lowes Foods to develop a relationship to market produce
from many small farms in a way that grocers are accustomed to receiving it - in
large amounts. They enroll farmers via the internet, word of mouth and training
opportunities and advise them of opportunities to sell, as well as combining
small harvests from individual farms for sale to customers with requirements
for large amounts. They also train the farmers in food safety
"traceability to source”. Lowes has put a “local face” on the food by
posting local farmers pictures near the vegetable department.
issues caused a profound change in traditional local agriculture, and create a
none of the food you eat is grown near where you live, and a very large amount
is either grown in other countries or 2500 miles away on the other side of
ours. Food is one tenth of our economy.
Unfortunately, we send a lot of that money abroad. On the list of crops which
we import are some real surprises.
Brussels sprouts, garlic, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants, squash and
tomatoes were all locally grown in the 1960's, but today almost half of all we
eat are imported!
our appetites and standards have shifted.
The salad you ate on this cold day contained lettuce, tomatoes, peppers,
and so forth was almost surely imported because those crops do not grow near
you during the winter. Prior to 1960,
your salad would have been coleslaw, or kale and apples, or some other winter
crop that stored well. Since traditional field grown crops are not produced all
year around, supermarkets must import them many months of the year.
our desire for tropical fruits and vegetables like avocados, pineapples, and kiwi
imported food gets a surprising subsidy.
When food is shipped between countries by air or ship, there is no tax
on the fuel used. It is cheaper to ship
a crop like oranges from Central and South America to our east coast than it is
to ship them from California. (The European Union has a proposal on the table
to change this during 2014 so as to encourage energy conservation and slow
of the ways that local farmers can guarantee the supermarkets locally grown
food 12 months a year is by growing hydroponically in labor and technology
intensive greenhouses. While more costly
and labor intensive per acre, the yields are much better than traditional open
field farming - 20 times more harvest for cucumbers and colored bell peppers, and
5 times more for tomatoes - and they produce year around, solving the
supermarkets supply variability problem, while providing the farmer steady
rule of thumb is that a dollar spent locally increases the local economy
between $3.00 and $7.00 due to a multiplier effect. Think about the local and regional economic
impact if we apply that notion to the 10% of our countries economy we spend on
and "job creators" could join forces to create a stronger, healthier
America. What an opportunity!