Another Reason to Buy Directly From Farmers: You Could Help the Local Economy More

John Tornow, Flickr

There are many reasons to buy directly from farmers (at farmers markets or through CSAs)—higher quality produce, faster delivery times, supporting small farmers—but one that isn't too well-understood is this exchange's impact on the local economy.

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.

Another Reason to Buy Directly From Farmers: You Could Help the Local Economy More