Mary Campbell, Extension Director and Community Resource Agent
How much do you know about where your food comes from? Is it important to you whether you are supporting local Florida agriculture? Learning about food and farming in our communities is an important way to understand sustainable living. Local food systems enhance the social relationships between farmers and consumers; support small and family farmers; keep local agricultural economies viable; maintain genetic diversity of food crops; and preserve natural resources, rural land areas, and wildlife spaces.
Floridians are buying more food grown locally or regionally and retail sales are higher here than in other states, according to a University of Florida study. The survey showed that local food represents about 20% of all Florida food purchased for at-home consumption, except restaurant take-out food, said Alan Hodges, an Extension scientist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Consumers realize there are health, quality and economic benefits to locally grown food. Among all Florida households, 62 percent bought local foods at farmers’ markets, 53 percent from retail supermarkets, 28 percent from restaurants, and 5 percent from community-supported agriculture or other direct transactions. Because there is no accepted definition of what constitutes “local” food, Hodges’ survey allowed respondents to define the term – and most often defined it as food produced within 100 miles of the consumer, he said.
To watch an interview with Hodges about the local food study, visit http://tinyurl.com/bycexkd to see Hodges and others from the larger project discuss local food, visit http://tinyurl.com/axjxosm. The larger project investigates ways of connecting farmers and consumers. It’s supported by a specialty crops block grant obtained by the UF/IFAS PIE Center. Information about the larger project is available at http://piecenter.com/localfood.
A USDA program launched in 2009: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food supports local food systems and understanding of the benefits of local and regional support for agriculture. There is an interactive map of farmer’s markets and other information on the website.