• The number of farmers’ markets rose to 5,274 in 2009, up from 2,756 in 1998 and 1,755 in 1994, according to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service.
• In 2005, there were 1,144 community-supported agriculture organizations (CSAs) in operation, up from 400 in 2001 and 2 in 1986, according to a study by the nonprofi t, nongovernmental organization National Center for Appropriate Technology. In early 2010, estimates exceeded 1,400, but the number could be much larger.
• The number of farm to school programs, which use local farms as food suppliers for school meals programs, increased to 2,095 in 2009, up from 400 in 2004 and 2 in the 1996-97 school year, according to the National Farm to School Network. Data from the 2005 School Nutrition and Dietary Assessment Survey, sponsored by USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, showed that 14 percent of school districts participated in Farm to School programs, and 16 percent reported having guidelines for purchasing locally grown produce. Production of locally marketed food is more likely to occur on small farms located in or near metropolitan counties.
Local food markets typically involve small farmers, heterogeneous products, and short supply chains in which farmers also perform marketing functions, including storage, packaging, transportation, distribution, and advertising. According to the 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture, most farms that sell directly to consumers are small farms with less than $50,000 in total farm sales, located in urban corridors of the Northeast and the West Coast.
In 2007, direct-to-consumer sales accounted for a larger share of sales for small farms, as defi ned above, than for medium-sized farms (total farm sales of $50,000 to $499,999) and large farms (total farm sales of $500,000 or more).
Produce farms engaged in local marketing made 56 percent of total agricultural direct sales to consumers, while accounting for 26 percent of all farms engaged in direct-to-consumer marketing. Direct-to-consumer sales are higher for the farms engaged in other entrepreneurial activities, such as organic production, tourism, and customwork (planting, plowing, harvesting, etc. for others), than for other farms. In 2007, direct sales by all U.S. farms surpassed customwork to become the leading on-farm entrepreneurial activity in terms of farm household participation.