Study: Impact of Buying Locally Depends on Where You Live

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Consumers in the U.S. have been throwing their purchasing power behind local organizations in a myriad of ways in the past several years. Small business Saturdays are a trend, more farmers markets have opened, and “Buy Local” campaigns have kicked off across the country. One reason backers of such programs cite for spending money locally is that it is a way for the regional economy to expand. But how far this statement can be extrapolated may depend on where you live.

A recent study published in Economic Development Quarterly set out to determine the extent that community-oriented agriculture impacts the local economy. Generalizations could not be made nationally, but regional takeaways were evident. ”There has been a lot of hope, but little evidence, that local food systems can be an engine of economic growth in communities,” Stephan Goetz, a professor of agricultural and regional economics in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences and the director of the Northeast Regional Center for Rural Development, said in a press release. “Our findings show that, at least in certain regions of the country, community-focused agriculture has had a measurable effect on economic growth.”

Community-focused agriculture, what the study called CFA, has the potential to add to the local economy. The researchers began by explaining that when a farm is selling food directly to the consumer, the money circulating stays local. “Agritourism” can boost the economy for the same reason. An event, like strawberry picking, is an impetus for consumers to travel to the farm and region to spend money locally. The study set out to evaluate how initiatives of this ilk can aid growth and how important farming is to the local economic region.

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