SCALE, inc.

Is Local Food Affordable for ordinary folks?

 

A Comparison of Farmers Markets and Supermarkets in Nineteen Communities in the Southeast

Anthony Flaccavento, SCALE, Inc

November 1st 2011

Introduction

The “local foods movement” has been growing rapidly for the past decade or more, reaching communities in nearly every part of the United States. As consumers have become more health conscious and a variety of federal programs have recently begun to support this trend, people from all walks of life have begun to shift their food expenditures to farmers markets, CSAs, local grocers and other types of “farm-to-consumer” direct purchases.

Farmers markets have been at the forefront of this growth in local foods, increasing in number from 1,750 in the mid-nineties to more than 7100 in 2011 (USDA Agriculture Marketing Service). While the best known farmers markets are in larger cities like New York, Washington, DC and Seattle, there are in fact hundreds of markets in the southeastern US, Appalachia and other areas comprised predominantly of small to medium sized towns and rural areas.

As the local foods movement has grown, some have begun to criticize it as “elitist”, with expensive foods largely unaffordable for working people, seniors on fixed incomes and the poor. Farmers markets in particular have increasingly been cited for this criticism.

Growing out of both the success of farmers markets and this growing criticism related to their affordability, SCALE, Inc undertook a survey and analysis of farmers markets in six states in Appalachia and the Southeast during the months of September and October, 2011.