In a new report released just in time for National Farmers Market Week, economists at the Union of Concerned Scientists serve up some encouraging news: a relatively small investment in direct-to-consumer sales (such as farmers markets and CSAs) could yield a multitude of benefits, including tens of thousands more jobs, improved nutrition, and a boost to local economies – not to mention a fresher, more flavorful dinner.
Evidence shows that direct-to-consumer sales have proven to be a powerful medium of distribution. Despite federal policies that clearly favor the industrial model of agricultural production and distribution, direct sales have continued to grow at a rapid rate and are now worth well over $1 billion. With a little public policy support, this growth could prove to be a pillar of the emerging green economy.
If the U.S. government diverted just a small amount of the massive subsidies it lavishes on industrial agriculture to support these markets and small local farmers, it would not only improve American diets, it would generate tens of thousands of new jobs.
– Jeffrey O’Hara, author of the report.
But the good news doesn’t end there – farmers markets and direct-to-consumer sales add to local economies in other ways too: for one, farmers keep a lot more than the 11.6¢ per $1 that they get from conventional distribution mechanisms, which means higher incomes for the people who actually grow our food. Higher farm incomes can and often do translate into rural economic development. You don’t have to be an economist to get this formula: More jobs + higher incomes = more robust local economies.