Locally grown food provides many benefits to a community

Supporting a local producer can make great economic sense for both the individual and the community.

One aspect of a local community food system is the farmer or producer of the food. This can include growing the raw product such as fruits and vegetables and raising animals for meat or other products such as milk or cheese. According to Michigan State University Extension, by supporting a local producer you are making an economic impact on your local community. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in their definition of local and regional food systems states vibrant communities as one of the components. A vibrant community has economic activity or impact where money is staying in the community through purchases and payments to other local businesses and services.

The economic impact can be documented in many ways. Institutions such as restaurants, hospitals, grocery stores and schools that want to purchase food supplies locally spend their food dollar with the farmer or producer instead of sending their money out-of-town by purchasing from far-off producers. Granted, not all food products for these institutions can be supplied locally, but a least a portion of their purchasing stays local and supports the farmer and thus the community.

As more and more institutions commit to purchasing local food, there will be an increase in demand and production in the food system. This increase can result in the farmer needing to hire additional help. People will also need to be hired for the processing and distribution of the food products. The end result of this economic growth is that jobs stay in the community.

As a community member, are there ways that you can purchase from a local farmer or producer? While there is more availability during the spring through fall time of the year, there are products which do not have a specific season. Can you purchase items such as meat, eggs, maple syrup and honey locally? Consider how your food dollar can benefit your community.

Michigan State University Extension has educators working across Michigan who provide community food systems educational programming and assistance. For more information, you can contact an educator by conducting a search with MSU Extension’s “Find an Expert” search tool and using the keywords “community food systems.”

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