Most of us have a soft spot in our hearts for the family farm. Whenever I drive past a roadside farm stand, I’m tempted to stop. Lately, I’ve been buying more fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets, and next year I plan to become part of a CSA–a community-supported agriculture project that links a group of buyers to a local farm.
It turns out that lots of people are buying more local food. As North Carolina farmer and writer Tom Philpott reports in Grist, an online environmental magazine, the number of farmers’ markets has grown by 79% in the last eight years. Community supported agriculture is also booming.
Supermarkets are taking notice. My local Whole Foods now showcases corn and peaches from Maryland and Virginia farms. Even Wal-Mart is talking about reducing “food-miles”–it makes no sense for a supercenter in Ohio to buy peaches from Georgia, when lots of great peaches are locally grown. As Philpott writes, “the phrase ‘local is the new organic’ has become commonplace.”
That’s the good news. The bad news is that small farms are losing money, despite the growth of farmers markets and CSAs. Philpott writes:
Aside from the dot-com bubble of the 1990s, I can think of no great boom in American history built more on enthusiasm, and less on profit.
You can read the rest of his column here. Grist, by the way, is a fun read–not something you hear often about environmental websites.