Good news for local farmers and locavores–even Appalachian hillfolk are willing to pay for fresh, local food.
According to the Asheville Citizen-Times, the “Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project has released estimates that Western North Carolina consumers bought $62 million worth of local food in 2010. That’s a four-fold increase since ASAP started its “Appalachian Grown” certification and branding program in 2007.”
While this exceeds the typical trend towards local foods in most areas, it is likely indicative of the general direction that our national food consumption is taking. Both organic and local food sales have seen increases nationwide; in fact, local food is predicted to reach $7 billion in sales this year. So what does this say about the future of the food industry?
Skeptics Converted: Local Food Proves Itself Worthy of Championing
Many have remained skeptical about the potential for the local food movement to burgeon into something commonplace and yielding significant results in terms of environmental and community benefits, yet the trends are promising.
Just last year, $5 billion of locally produced food was purchased. If sales truly can reach $7 billion by the end of this year, that would signal a staggering 40% growth rate for the industry.
More and more, consumers are taking into account the source of their food. A poll taken by the Citizen-Times showed that 77% of respondents indicated that local sourcing is somewhat to very important when choosing a grocery store and 64% felt similarly about restaurants. Those are heartening statistics, especially considering that locally sourced food and the locavore movement itself did not gain prominence until this past decade.
Cause for Optimism
What does this mean for the industry at large? Hopefully both producers and consumers now have a reason for optimism when it comes to growing and buying local food. While it may be atypically progressive in this regard, the Asheville area at the least provides an encouraging demonstration of the financial viability of local food markets.
Fingers crossed, this may be just the beginning of a long and comprehensive market transformation.