Michigan ranks second in local farm direct sales

A recent survey by the USDA shows Michigan ranks second to California in the value of local farm direct sales.

Results from a 2015 USDA Local Food Marketing Practices Survey showed more than 167,000 farms sold 8.7 billion dollars of food directly to consumers, retailers, local distributors and institutions. This survey was conducted as part of the annual ag census and targeted farmers selling direct to better capture the economic impact of local, source identified food sales. What may come as a surprise to some is that Michigan ranked second, behind California, in the total value of local food sold direct in the state. In 2015, farmers in Michigan reported selling 459 million dollars worth of local food.

The survey was conducted by the USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics Service, and was designed to capture the impact of foods marketed directly from farm producers to consumers or retailers who then sell directly to consumers. With this survey the USDA will now have benchmark data with which to compare the growth of future direct farm sales of local food through the number of farms that market food directly, the value of these sales, and the marketing practices used in conjunction with these sales. For the first time the USDA is has adequate information to show the impact of these direct sales, which were not collected by previous versions of the Census of Agriculture.

Survey respondents identified three specific direct markets for their food products, consumers, retailers, and institutions. Sales direct to consumers accounted for 35 percent of the direct sales in 2015 and were primarily through farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, on-farm stores, roadside stands, u-pick operations, and other means. The retail market accounted for 27 percent of direct sales and included includes supermarkets, supercenters, restaurants, caterers, independent grocers, and food cooperatives. Lastly, 39 percent of direct sales were to local institutions and intermediary businesses, including schools, hospitals and colleges and universities, as well as food processors, food hubs and distributors that market local or regionally branded products.

This data, and Michigan’s second place ranking, show the growing importance of local food systems and farmers who are utilizing direct marketing practices in our state. These direct market foods are primarily fresh food products (53 percent) but also include value added products such as bottled milk, cheese, meat, jam, cider, wine and many others. One other interesting result of this data is the importance of urban/metropolitan centers for direct market sales. A majority (53 percent) of the number of farms were located in metropolitan counties and two-thirds (67 percent) of total sales were from these farms. Additionally, more than 80 percent of farms sold all of their product within a 100 mile radius of the farm.

If you are looking for more information about how to market your farm products direct to consumers, institutions, or retailers, or are a customer looking to purchase more farm direct products contact your local Michigan State University Extension Community Food Systems Educator

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