Thursday, September 9, 2010

What does "local" mean?

No legal authority (including the USDA) has declared a definition for "local", so how do you define it? Maybe the best way is to use the definition most popularly used by consumers. In a recent study conducted by the Mid-Atlantic Specialty Crop Research Initiative at Penn State, 1,710 participants from the metropolitan areas of New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Richmond were surveyed on this very topic.

The participants were surveyed on what types of food products they purchased, where they purchased these products, and what factors may have affected their purchasing behaviors. They were asked to indicate their definitions of “locally grown,” in terms of miles from their residence and in relative terms of distance from their residence. The majority of participants (78%) defined “locally grown” as 100 miles or less from their residence, as well as 84% defined “locally grown” as within their state of residence.

Are these findings enough to develop a definition of "local" or does the government need to get involved? Vermont and Maryland have developed or are in the process of developing their own definitions. In 2008, the state of Vermont developed a definition for "local"; foods could be considered local if they were grown within 30 miles of the point-of-purchase or within the state of Vermont. The state of Maryland is in the process of creating an industry advisory group of growers, retailers, processors and consumers to come up with guidelines to define "local".

As an ag entrepreneur, how do you define "local"? Are you marketing any of your products as "local"? Does the government (national or state) need to create a definition? Do you think different state definitions will help or hurt marketing?

1 comment:

The Real 54 said...

This sounds like if there's going to be any kind of definition that it should be left up to the states. For example, Local in Vermont, encompassing ALL of vermont is far less square milage then California, Florida, Alaska or Texas stating that a product is locally grown. Purely distance based could get confusing as to how to market items only within a 30 mile radius of the farm as being "local" but that's why there are regional, local, and national distribution systems I guess.