Local food systems

A local food system broadens the interactions between food producers and food consumers to include social relationships, economic transactions and environmental management centered on a particular place. A local food system may focus on particular ways of producing food or may develop alternative marketing channels that connect farmers and consumers.

The social, economic and environmental aspects of local food systems are realized in various ways:

  • Building social connections, spurring relationships and increasing shared knowledge between farmers and eaters
  • Creating economic opportunities for food producers through the development of localized and regionalized marketplaces
  • Strengthening environmental stewardship of food producers, lessening the usage of nonlocal resources needed for transporting foods, and marketing food items within small or regional geographic areas

Benefits of local food systems

For consumers

  • Food that reaches your kitchen more quickly after harvest can have more flavor and be healthier for you.
  • Buying locally grown food often means knowing the farmer or producer, gaining a clearer understanding of how food was grown or processed, and having the opportunity to purchase sustainably grown foods.
  • Eating locally grown foods enhances your appreciation of the quality of seasonal foods.
  • Eating seasonal foods encourages healthy living and the development of increased knowledge and skills in food preservation and cooking techniques.

For farmers

  • Increased relationships with consumers and other regional purchasers build alternative market opportunities that can increase sales and farm profits, creating a more diversified income for the farmer.
  • Stronger relationships with consumers help farmers identify crops to raise to meet consumer demand and diversify their production and market opportunities for a more stable farming operation.
  • Producing and marketing food in a local food system requires skills in diverse production methods, face-to-face marketing and new distribution models, and thus encourages farmers to increase their skills.

For communities

  • Supporting local food systems supports local economies by keeping food dollars in the local community.
  • Local farms employ family members, neighbors, youth and other local workers, providing jobs for community residents.
  • Local food systems need productive, innovative farmers; community facilities for processing and packaging products; transportation and marketing infrastructure; and consumers, all which help build a stronger local economy for the community.
  • Growing and purchasing food in a local food system increases food security because food grown in the local community is less likely to be disrupted by transportation issues, large-scale food-borne illness outbreaks, weather and high fuel costs.
  • Supporting new farmers and gardeners increases local residents’ access to fresh food and a community’s ability to respond to local hunger and food-access issues.
  • Communities with a strong local food supply are better positioned to maintain a stable, safe food supply in the event of disaster and can better respond to challenges affecting food production in their local regions.

 

See Home production: Tier 0, Direct from farmer: Tier 1 and Regional partners and markets: Tier 2 for more information on the benefits and challenges of local food systems.