I also included some examples of farms in their third or fourth or fifth year to show that it looks like when you’re first starting this. That legacy has continued to this day, as evidenced by U.S. farms’ dwindling crop diversity and the massive environmental footprint — like degraded soil, excessive water use, and heavy use of pesticides and herbicides — such approaches to farming leave behind. It would have been interesting to find more examples of those farms ― they are out there, but that just wasn’t where my connections were. It’s not new. I hope this book will help make this more of an option of people who don’t want farming to just be the one way. Please check the blog again. I was also looking for diversity in markets and to have a good gender balance. "And you have to market in a way that meets what people need.”, I'm an award-winning journalist with a particular interest in for-profit social enterprise, as well as entrepreneurship and small business in general. Direct Local Food isn’t the only platform out there linking local buyers and sellers. With the latter, they also can, for example, send product updates to area buyers. Despite this, alternative approaches have continued to survive — and even thrive. farmers. I wanted to create a dialogue around how these things work and how can we make them better. You’ve been in this business for some time. We made it easy for you to exercise your right to vote! That mantra traces its roots back to the late Earl Butz, who President Richard Nixon appointed as U.S. secretary of agriculture in 1971. What I didn’t end up with, which I wish I had found more examples of, was a more racially diverse audience. But I think the landscape needs to be more open and more accepting of all of it. Under Butz’s watch, domestic farm policies shifted to favor large, industrial operations planting mostly corn and soy and shun smaller farms that favored organic, locally sold crops. In a new book titled Compact Farms, out this week, Volk highlights 15 different farms across the country ― all of which are located on no more than 5 acres ― and the hard-working people who run them. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. I've covered those. Still, she was surprised by what she ended up concluding. As an entrepreneurial journalist--ie, a freelancer--I work from my home office in Pelham, NY. When I first moved to Portland in 2001, I think there were maybe 15 CSAs serving the area. And over the past five to 10 years doing that, I’ve always been impressed when I go see these places. What inspired you to write this book that’s a how-to guide for small farmers? Although McAlpin had worked previously for several nonprofits, the more she thought about it, the more she decided that any effective way to increase farmers’ sales required a for-profit engine. These examples of folks doing it for 20 or 30 years show you can maintain this. With about a $5 billion market for fruit and vegetables harvested by local growers, it seemed to be a big opportunity. The most surprising thing to me was how many examples of these farms there were. In the course of her work, she started hearing more and more stories from grocers and chefs about just what a pain in the neck it was to source food from local producers. I grew up on the East Coast and in the Midwest, and it was not like that when I lived there 30 years ago. I see it everywhere I go. I’m optimistic, too, because I do travel and visit farms in other parts of the country. This is something that’s out there. On the one hand, there’s been a steadily growing surge of interest in eating locally produced food. Farmers who sell directly to local consumers receive a fuller monetary value for their produce. A good food website design don’t need to be ornamental— it can be simple and straightforward in order to let the food photography shine. (The system through which buyers and sellers indicate their criteria and conduct the transaction is patent pending). As an economist with the USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), I’m also interested in what local food systems look like in the United States and how locally grown food products are delivered from farms to consumers. , in June, makes weekly and bi-weekly purchases through the platform. But sales of locally produced food occur through other outlets, too. Joseph Erbentraut covers promising innovations and challenges in the areas of food, water, agriculture and our climate. @Becky Bartlett - thank you for letting us know. What are other indications of this movement that you’re seeing? I wanted to look at this smaller scale of agriculture and find out from the people what they are doing that is making them so successful, to put those ideas out into the world and try to generate more discussion around the topic. She and co-founder Candace Sweigart spent a long time understanding the sales process “so we could replicate that online,” she says. John Ikerd, a retired agricultural economics professor who writes about the growing “eat local” movement, says that farmers who sell directly to local consumers need not give priority to packing, shipping, and shelf-life issues and can instead “select, grow and harvest crops to ensure peak qualities of freshness, nutrition and taste.” For a long time, the prevailing mantra of farming in America has been simple: “Get big or get out.”. I knew that to some extent but was surprised at how easy it was, in some ways, to find examples of that. I'm an award-winning journalist with a particular interest in for-profit social enterprise, as well as entrepreneurship and small business in general. Local food doesn’t have to travel as far to arrive on your plate, so it helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to improving our carbon footprint. How did you select the farms you highlight? Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. French foods for the francophile in your life, $70-$390 depending on subscription at Bon Appetit Box, Follow Erbentraut on Twitter at @robojojo. With the free option, farmers provide a profile, list their products and have the ability to do online transactions. These examples of folks doing it for 20 or 30 years show you can maintain this. That this is sustainable in the environmental sense, in the social sense and in the business sense. The upshot: a site through which buyers would be able to see what’s available and order and pay online. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. “If you want to have a big impact, you had to find a way for mainstream businesses to buy locally, not create another market people might go to once a week,” she says. I wanted to have urban examples and rural examples in all different parts of the country. Tips? Buying local sustainable food supports people in your own community! Jered Couch, for example, who opened The Dish, a restaurant in McAlpin got the idea as she researched farmers markets and the problems facing both consumers and wholesale buyers, like restaurants. There are many people who have been doing this for a significant amount of time. So far, members say the site answers a real need. For example, GrowBuyEat connects farms to local restaurants and AgLocal matches independent and family meat farms to wholesale and retail buyers. The average piece of produce in the U.S. travels 1,500 miles, while local food may only travel 100 miles (or less), according to researcher Rich Pirog at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University. The key was not to insert a cumbersome new process into the works. I see it accelerating. Farm policy has been in the spotlight recently thanks to Trump’s late nomination of a U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary. Food at PLNU is a good example of how many businesses, organizations, and people find that eating local, most times, has its limits. That this is sustainable in the environmental sense, in the social sense and in the business sense. Eating more local food reduces CO2 emissions by reducing food miles — the distance food travels from farm to consumer. A set of targeted case studies of local food supply chains bear out these national trends. They generally have to make a lot of phone calls to one supplier to place just one order—a very inefficient and time-consuming process. For example, Larry Thompson farms 145 acres within 20 miles of downtown Portland, OR, and focuses his sales of blueberries through farmers markets and farm stands. What made them unique? He figures he’ll buy 50% of his fruits and vegetables through the site next spring. McAlpin decided not to take a commission on the sales. It encourages sustainable agriculture, and facilitates tracking the supply chain back to the point of origin to evaluate ecological practices. Today is National Voter Registration Day! Part of HuffPost Environment. Look at the number of farmers markets in the U.S.--more than 8,100 by the USDA’s last count, up 4% from just the year before. A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States. Direct sales through these and other outlets are a small but growing part of U.S. agriculture, and are especially important for small farms. Official websites use .gov Note: My work is supported by … All rights reserved. Instead, the platform would be membership based. Busy consumers, for example, barely had time to get to their supermarket, much less take an extra trip to a farmers market. updates on Trump’s presidency by messaging us A lock ( LockA locked padlock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. As for buyers, one produce purchaser at a grocery store recounted making 50 phone calls a week to stock his shelves with local food. Now you have formalized training programs at community colleges and private organizations, as well as through farms. And all of those programs exist because people are interested in getting involved at this scale in this type of agriculture. Boise It doesn’t feel like any of that is going to change. I've covered those areas for many many places, including The New York Times, Bloomberg Businessweek, Crain's New York Business, Inc. and Business Insider. Certainly, with the very minimal subsidies there are and the kind of momentum there is in terms of interest in research, I think we’re still on solid ground. What surprises did you encountered along the way of working on this? It’s a huge leap forward. Anyone who has shopped at a farmers market can appreciate the freshness of the food, the interaction with farmers, and the opportunity to learn how the food was produced. “Farmers already end up paying a commission to so many people in the sales channel,” says McAlpin. Josh Volk thinks so. We’re so progressive in some ways and there is so much support at the local level, not just in terms of local government, but with the customers — the people at the farmers markets and the support for the CSA growers and restaurateurs using local produce and buying from local farmers.