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'Local-grown' food a $7 billion business, USDA says

'Local-grown' food a $7 billion business, USDA says

Posting in Food

Sales of locally-grown foods are expected to generate $7 billion in 2011, according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

Sales of locally-grown foods totaled more than $4.8 billion in 2008, and are expected to generate $7 billion in 2011, according to a new U.S. Department of Agriculture report.

Perhaps more interestingly, the success of a local item depends heavily on what it is: fruit, vegetables and nuts dominate the trend and occupy up to 40 percent of area markets; meanwhile, most other foods total just 5 percent of local and regional sales.

(A "local market" encompasses grocery stores and supermarkets as well as farmer's markets and roadside stands.)

The lesson: given the right conditions (price, freshness, taste), Americans have no problem buying local, not to be confused with "organic."

But it's got to make sense. In an Associated Press report, some farmers chalk up the trend to savvier customers who want to know where their food comes from; others say it's just a matter of opportunity, now that there are double the number of farmer's markets available.

But it could just be common sense. Often, fruit and vegetables flown in from South America or other far-flung continents are under-ripe, tasteless and battered. When a desired item is out-of-season, sure. But when local options exist, it's hard to say no.

Photo: Lucas Cobb/Flickr

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Andrew Nusca

Editor Emeritus

Andrew Nusca is editor of SmartPlanet and an associate editor for ZDNet. Previously, he worked at Money, Men's Vogue and Popular Mechanics magazines. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and New York University. He is based in New York but resides in Philadelphia. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure