Local Food

The market for food produced by local farms is growing. 

Sales of food direct from farm to consumers total more than $5 billion annually and there were nearly 150,000 local farmers in the U.S. at last count.

Today, local food systems are a small, but growing and important part of our food system. 

Ways to Connect

John Paul Coonrod

 

John Paul Coonrod usually recognizes most of his customers. Lately, though, he says there have been a lot of unfamiliar faces at Great Scott! Community Market

The small grocery store opened in Winchester, Ill. last year in what was once an old shoe store. It stocks your standard dried goods, canned goods and craft beer and wine, and has a deli section in back. 

And since the start of the pandemic, the store has seen more business than ever.

Becca Costello / Harvest Public Media

The holiday season is officially upon us, and so are its classic dishes. For some home cooks who are vegan or vegetarian, Thanksgiving can be a time to flex their culinary creativity, and make the well-loved new.

The sky is dark and cloudy, but inside Rutabaga’s Comfort Food in downtown Lincoln, the light is warm, and it smells like Thanksgiving.

Sara Brown and her kitchen team are bracing for the lunch rush. Though the restaurant opened just two months ago, the dining room already tends to be busy by noon.

Chives bloom at the Student Organic Farm at Iowa State University. Sales of organic produce continue to rise, according to the Organic Trade Association.
file: Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Sales of organic food reportedly climbed to record highs in 2016, an indication organics are edging toward the mainstream.

 

In a new industry report, the Organic Trade Association says American consumers spent $43 billion on organic products in 2016, which accounts for more than 5 percent of total U.S. food sales, a high water mark for the organic industry.

 

A study that received funding from the Leopold Center demonstrated that including small grains, such as the oats pictured here in 2016, in field rotations can reduce the need for chemical inputs.
Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

A leading research center focused on local farmers and environmental conservation is hanging on by a thread, even as the movement to diversify agriculture, which it helped launch, continues to thrive.

Low crop prices have many Midwest wheat and corn farmers looking for ways to supplement their incomes. One possibility for conventional farmers: producing food for farmers markets.


On a brisk and busy January morning at the Oklahoma National Stockyards, cattle arrive for auction in trailers pulled by pickup trucks — and leave in double-decker cars towed by semis.

Sweet potatoes are undergoing a modern renaissance in this country.

While they have always made special appearances on many American tables around the holidays, year-round demand for the root vegetables has grown. In 2015, farmers produced more sweet potatoes than in any year since World War II.

War Effort

“A lot of things were hard to get during World War II and potatoes were easier to raise than some of the other vegetables,” my grandmother Joyce Heise tells me.

In a hog barn in rural Iowa, veterinarian Paul Thomas’s approach sends pigs scurrying. He watches for unusual behavior. As he walks the length of the barn, Thomas notices one of the two-month-old hogs nestled against the railing at the edge of its pen and reaches over to gently pet the pig’s back. The pig shakes its head and drowsily gets up.

“He’s just sleepy,” Thomas says, and by the time he’s spoken the words, the pig has trotted off to join its pen-mates.

In the next room, Thomas hears something different.

A proposal that would jumpstart the chicken business in Nebraska has some residents concerned about the potential impact on the environment and are trying to block or delay its construction.

Costco, the warehouse retailer and grocery chain, plans to build a giant $300 million chicken slaughterhouse on the south side of the town of Fremont in eastern Nebraska.

Americans waste a staggering amount of food. Instead of letting it rot and wreck the environment, some entrepreneurs want to put it to work feeding insects, and see the potential to revolutionize how we feed some of the livestock that provide us our meat.

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