As mentioned previously in this blog, both the National Restaurant Association and the National Grocers Association have identified the desire for local food as one of the strongest consumer trends.
How is Maryland doing?
The short answer is that we are making progress. One of the questions in the Ag Census asks farmers to report the Value of agricultural products sold directly to individuals for human consumption (referred to in this post as ‘direct sales’). The 2012 USDA Ag Census for Maryland reported that direct sales increased by 32% over the 2007 Census figure to $28,038,000. Nationwide, direct sales grew a modest 8.1% between census years. Farmers were instructed not to include the direct sales of value-added products such as jams, cheese, and wine. Also, the Census question does not capture intermediated sales arranged by food hubs or other food aggregators, which is another way that consumers get access to local food.
Of course, growth in direct sales was not even across the state. Most counties experienced increases, but some had a reduction in value of direct sales.
How does the direct sales number relate to total food purchases per capita in Maryland?
As per the 2012 Maryland Quick Facts from the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 5,884,868 residents in Maryland in 2012. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the food-at-home spending was $2,273 per person in the U.S. in 2012. Dividing the total direct sales in 2012 by the Census Bureau’s population estimate we find that $4.76 per capita was spent on food for human consumption in Maryland. That represents just 0.2% of the average U.S. per capita food-at-home spending in 2012. How does that compare with other states?
Vermont is the clear leader in the U.S. Its residents spent $43.80 per capita on ag products for human consumption. Maine is second at $18.60 per capita and New Hampshire is third at $15.40 per capita. Maryland is roughly in the middle.
In the future, it would be nice if the Ag Census would be able to capture data from the sales of value-added products such as jams, cheese and wine by county. We also hope to be able to find more data on intermediated sales of local food by food hubs and other aggregators.
Through direct sales, farmers retain a much higher percentage of the value of a product produced on the farm. Direct sales also help to create jobs and build the local economy. Maryland is moving in the right direction and there is more room to grow.