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Local Food Sales Surge in WNC

ASHEVILLE NC – Local food sales in Western North Carolina have grown significantly in the last five years. The 2012 Census of Agriculture, released on May 2, shows that direct sales alone have increased by nearly 70% in the region according to analysis by ASAP’s Local Food Research Center, from under $5 million in 2007 to over $8 million in 2012. The 2012 Census of Agriculture also shows that the region has reversed a disturbing trend in loss of farm acres, actually adding over 10,000 acres between 2007 and 2012 while the rest of North Carolina and the country lost farmland.

It has been five years since the United States Department of Agriculture released the 2007 Census of Agriculture. In that time period the local farm and food scene in Western North Carolina has undergone a visible and dramatic transformation.

“The 2012 Census of Agriculture verifies what we see every day in Western North Carolina – the local food movement is growing,” said Charlie Jackson, ASAP’s Executive Director. “We just never imagined it would be this dramatic.” For over a decade ASAP has worked to build demand for food grown by local farms through their many programs and products, such as the Local Food Guide, Appalachian GrownTM certification and branding, and the Farm Tour.

The success in Western North Carolina is particularly impressive when compared to the rest of North Carolina and the country as a whole. While North Carolina saw a slight increase in direct sales, it is entirely due to the increase in direct sales in Western North Carolina. “If you remove the 23 westernmost counties, North Carolina had a net decrease in direct sales,” said Jackson. Direct farm sales are an important measure of consumer demand for locally grown food. According to Jackson “per capita, Western North Carolina consumers buy nearly three times as much directly from farmers than do the rest of North Carolinians.”

ASAP’s Local Food Research Center has come to the same conclusion as the Census of Agriculture data demonstrates – local food sales are growing and more and more people are seeking out food from local farms. The Center’s own data shows that local farms and locally grown food are defining features of life for the people who live in the region. In every category of local food sales there have been large increase. “Not only have are we seeing these large increases in direct sales, we are seeing more and more restaurants, grocery stores, and even universities, hospitals, and public schools embrace local food” said Jackson. According to ASAP, consumers spent over $170 million on local farm products in 2013, a 42 percent increase from the previous year.

“Local food is more than just a trend, it is now a movement” said Jackson. “This Census data and our research are proving that local food is an effective and successful approach to keeping farms and engaging people in where their food comes from.”

WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA

THE REST OF NORTH CAROLINA

UNITED STATES

Direct sales to consumers 2012*

$8,311,000

$23,515,000

$1,309,287,000

Direct sales per capita 2012

$7.45

$2.72

$4.17

Direct sales: percentage change 2007 to 2012

+69%

-3%

+8%

CSA farms 2012

148

431

12,617

Population/CSA farm 2012

7,533

20,031

24,880

Sales of vegetables, melons, and sweet potatoes: percentage change 2007 to 2012

+247%

+23%

+15%

Sales of fruits, tree nuts, and berries: percentage change 2007 to 2012

+24%

+4%

+39%

All statistics from the table were calculated by ASAP’s Local Food Research Center using data from the USDA Census of Agriculture 2012 and 2007, and the United States Census Bureau’s State & County Quickfacts population estimates.

*Direct sales include agricultural products produced and sold directly to individuals for human consumption from roadside stands, farmers’ markets, pick-your-own sites, etc.

To find out more about ASAP’s Local Food Research Center, or to read up on their research visit: www.asapconnections.org/local-food-research-center/. To find locally grown food visit www.AppalachianGrown.org or pick up a Local Food Guide.

ABOUT ASAP (APPALACHIAN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE PROJECT)

ASAP’s mission is to help local farms thrive, link farmers to markets and supporters, and build healthy communities through connections to local food. ASAP’s Local Food Research Center works to assess the economic, social and environmental impacts of localizing food systems. To learn more about ASAP’s work and the center, visit asapconnections.org, or call (828) 236-1282.

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