Louisville survey affirms opportunities for farmers to cash in on local foods crazePosted on Sep 26, 2013
Seed Capital Kentucky, a non-profit organization working to develop a regional food economy, partnered with the Louisville Metro Government’s Department of Economic Group in commissioning a study of local food demand. The survey by a New York-based food and agriculture consulting firm concluded that Louisville residents and commercial buyers already are purchasing about $310 million worth of local food products annually, but are interested in spending an additional $300 million.
The report’s Executive Summary says: “Much work remains to be done to satisfy Louisville’s appetite for local food. Consumers across the demographic spectrum want more local, fresh, prepared and processed food, at lower prices, and they want to buy that food where they already shop. Commercial buyers recognize that buying and selling more local food will require additional infrastructure and support, the kind of capital improvements that may require public and private dollars, but are keen to grow their local food purchases.”
Louisville Metro Government has initiated a “farm-to-table” project to create links between urban consumers and rural producers. The project has received funding from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Board and has the enthusiastic support of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. The metro area has several highly successful farmers’ markets, a company handling distribution plus various other retail outlets for fresh farm products.
Stephen Reily, the founder of Seed Capital, wrote in the Courier-Journal that “farmers can’t meet the explosive demand for local food overnight, and we will have to help them build their supply (through technical assistance, capital and a distribution infrastructure) to meet that demand. If we can do this correctly, we will transform the future for our region’s farmers – the real heroes of the local food economy – and their families.”
The survey involved 421 consumers, 75 commercial buyers and 35 lengthy interviews and focus groups with consumers, farmers and commercial buyers. About 70 percent of the consumers said they purchased local foods; almost all of them said they perceive local food to be more flavorful and of generally better quality compared to foods from other areas. The consumers reported strong interest in local fruits and vegetables. Demand was fairly consistent across all income levels and ages, the report said.
In 2011 Louisville residents spent $2 billion on food, approximately $1.2 billion on food-at-home and $800 million away-from-home, according to the report.
KFB has several policy positions relative to the promotion and development of local foods. It has a certified roadside farm markets program involving over 100 markets throughout the state.