A new study from UC Davis took a look at the way buying directly from farmers affects the economy in the Sacramento, California, area – which is only 4 percent of Sacramento’s total agricultural business. It’s a complicated question, but the conclusion is decisive: Buying directly from farmers has a disproportionately large impact on the local economy.
At its core, the study found that a dollar spent buying directly from a farmer has about twice the impact on the local economy as spending a dollar on food that goes through a middleman – a supermarket, for example. There are all kinds of reasons for that: Farmers who sell directly to consumers tend to buy more supplies locally, which can benefit seed and equipment sellers in the area; and they also tend to hire more local labor, which in turn benefits in the community.
There are a lot of statistics and numbers in the study, some of which are kind of theoretical and/or hard to wrap your brain around. But some are clearer. From the study:
This means, that for every $1 million of output they produce, the direct marketers are generating a total of 31.8 jobs within the Sacramento Region, while producers not engaged in direct marketing only generate 10.5 jobs.
The researchers also played around with a hypothetical: What would happen if grocery stores in the Sacramento area switched their purchasing habits a little, buying more from farmers who also sell directly to consumers and less from those who only wholesale? Grocery stores in Sacramento currently buy about $4.6 million worth of product from these direct-selling farmers; what if that was shifted to, say, $5.6 million? The study found that that kind of shift would infuse a whopping $1.3 million into the local economy and create about 22 jobs.
We didn’t really need another reason to favor direct-selling farmers, but hey, we won’t turn down a chance to help the local economy, either.