The local production of food encompasses more than just growing fruits and vegetables or raising livestock. Serving local markets create a sense of place because it reflects the market life and social life of a community. Local food production doesn’t just mirror or fit into a community. Local food production also revitalizes market and social connections. Producing food for local and regional markets is important because it cultivates local food markets and community connections between consumers and producers.
Local food markets work to match producers, who want to sell a product, with consumers, who want to buy a product. This type of interaction is what propels the economy. When it comes to producing local and regional food, the cultivation of local food markets provides opportunities for direct and indirect sales to consumers. Some examples of these markets are community-supported agriculture, farmers’ markets, and farm-to-table restaurants. By enabling a connection between local producers and local consumers, more money is kept circulating in the local economy. For example, when a dollar is spent on food purchased from a farmer, that farmer will use some of the dollar to purchase screws from the hardware store. Then, the hardware store will use some of that to purchase paper from their local supplier, and so on, and so on.
These interactions in the local economy among local food producers and local food consumers create opportunities for starting new businesses, developing new resources, and leveraging other programs. By using local food as a fulcrum, new businesses have gotten a start thanks to USDA’s New and Beginning Farmer and Rancher programs, Indiana Small Business Development Center’s resources, and USDA Rural Development programs.
When consumers and producers interact, they also create stronger connections in the community. Stronger connections change the food system into a community food system that addresses local needs and locally shared values. One way a community can learn about its local needs is through a local food summit. It is an event that brings together producers, retailers, consumers, food insecurity professionals, elected officials, and more to talk about issues related to food in their community.
One example of the solutions that comes from these meetings is the promotion of SNAP (food stamps) and WIC usage at farmers’ markets. Additionally, by fleshing out the shared values between community members, they are able to build a food system in urban areas which address more than profit and consumption. For example, in addition to growing food, many urban farms are founded to educate youth, foster community interaction through events, or increase access to fruits and vegetables in a food desert.