Allegheny College, PA Local Foods Network
Source File: http://ceed.allegheny.edu/lfn/
Agriculture remains a significant economic force in Pennsylvania. In 2001 the value of products from Pennsylvania farms exceeded $2.1 billion and the sector employed nearly 90,000 people on 58,000 farms. Much of this activity is considered to be “agribusiness,” which is large-scale farming that generally offers “quantity over quality” As an indicator that agribusiness dominates this market the number of farms and cropland in PA has declined, while the size of farms has generally increased.
Industrialization and globalization of agriculture are two of the processes behind these trends. While agribusiness provides food for the supermarkets, those dollars spent in the supermarkets flow out of the local economy. Locally grown foodstuffs offer community residents a way to keep jobs and dollars in the region.
Countering the agribusiness industry is a growing demand for organic and locally produced foodstuffs, aided by community-supported agriculture, farmers’ markets, farm-to-college programs, and direct sales to restaurants.
The purpose of the LFN is to facilitate cooperation among local producers, local markets and consumers to support a diverse and healthy food network. By establishing markets where producer and consumer interests are aligned both economically and environmentally, and working with the Meadville Area Local Growers (MALG), we will provide an outlet for the demand of producers and consumers interested in top-quality, nutritious foodstuffs. Also, to broaden the customer base buying local foods from MALG members LFN will identify untapped consumers, conduct targeted educational presentations for the identified consumers, and establish new partnerships within the community to promote the use of local foods.
Consumers seek local foods because of food safety concerns (pesticides, etc.) or for freshness and better taste; however, a healthy local food network has far reaching social, economic, and environmental benefits:
- Safer, healthier alternatives to the foodstuffs that most eat today
- Greater consumer knowledge of farmers and their practices
- Closer community connections
- Greater economic profitability and prosperity for the farmers
- Reduced pressure for farmers to sell their land
- Preservation of local farmland and farmers
- More food dollars circulate locally
- Creation of local jobs, and a stronger economic base for the community
- Reduced environmental degradation, such as greenhouse gas emissions, soil erosion, water pollution, and the loss of biodiversity.