Impact of local farm products growing in Minnesota, study saysLee Egerstrom called it a convenient convergence of information Tuesday as he touted the importance of locally grown farm products at the Hoffbauer farm in Midway Township east of Proctor.
By: Mike Creger , Duluth News Tribune
Lee Egerstrom called it a convenient convergence of information Tuesday as he touted the importance of locally grown farm products at the Hoffbauer farm in Midway Township east of Proctor.
Egerstrom’s study on the impact of the local food movement in Minnesota was released Tuesday in the wake of a U.S. Department of Agriculture report
released Monday saying gross sales across the country of local foods — through farmers markets and direct sale at farms — was four times higher than estimates were showing.
Egerstrom is a fellow at Minnesota 20/20, a think tank focused on a number of state issues, including rural economies. He said 90 cents of every dollar spent on locally grown food stays in the local economy. The state study shows small farmers have a $64 million impact on the economy.
“There’s an explosion of people who want to buy local,” Egerstrom said.
Lois Hoffbauer said the news gets even better as her farm and others celebrate “Buy Local Weekend” with 27 vendors at the Duluth Farmers Market on Saturday.
“It’s time to come and shop,” she said.
Minnesota 20/20 chose the Hoffbauer farm for the release of the study because it’s a small farm with products that are in season, 20/20 communications director Joe Sheeran said. The group also is making a push to remind the public to buy local for the holidays.
Hoffbauer said the farm will sell 1,000 trees before Christmas along with 1,000 wreaths and dozens of “kissing balls,” which is a new decoration of evergreen boughs shaped into a large orb. Most of the sales of the decorations will be at the Duluth market, she said.
The trees cover 50 acres of the farm, and there are 12 acres of summer produce.
She and her husband, Doug, had early retirements from their jobs about a year ago, so the farm is their main source of income. Egerstrom said most of the people selling produce use the business to supplement a larger crop or herd operation or, like the Hoffbauers, as a retirement income.
Egerstrom said the study, available online at mn2020.org, is “measuring for the first time the impact” of locally grown markets in the state.
The USDA study said sales of “local foods,” whether sold direct to consumers at farmers markets or through intermediaries such as grocers or restaurants, amounted to $4.8 billion in 2008. That’s a number several times greater than earlier estimates, and the department predicts locally grown foods will generate $7 billion in sales this year.
“Think of it as expanding what the picture looks like,” USDA researcher Stephen Vogel told the Associated Press. “What this report does is say, ‘Look, this market is bigger than you thought.’ ”
The number of farms selling directly to consumers has grown, from an estimated 86,000 in the early 1990s to about 136,000 now, according to the USDA. And the number of farmers markets has about doubled, from 2,756 in 1998 to 5,274 in 2009.
Egerstrom said Minnesota has gone from two community supported agriculture farms 20 years ago to about 200 today. “There is interest in people putting faces and names to the products they buy,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.