Slow Food Movement Boosts Local Farms

By Dave Winzelberg |  Aug 03, 2012

Agri-businesses see demand rise for what's locally grown.

One of the most popular trends in the American food industry today is the emphasis on local, sustainable agriculture and the preservation of bringing food "from the farm to the table."

Slow Food USA embodies this principle; it is the American branch of Slow Food International, an organization that aims to keep and protect local food traditions and raise awareness about where food comes from. They've grown to 225 chapters nationwide, each committed to providing fresh, local food on the community level. Their influence has boosted countless agricultural businesses and kept many from having to sell the farm.

Supporting growers and promoting local food culture is the idea at the core of the "slow food" movement, started in 1986 by Carlo Petrini, who was concerned about the homogenization of foods by the fast food industry. By creating an organization of like-minded consumers, growers and community leaders, he sought to promote biodiversity through local food items and traditions while protecting small farms.

An increasing number of U.S. shoppers are beginning to slow down their food, too. According to a recent USDA survey, the number of farmers' markets nationwide swelled to over 7,000 last year , an increase of about 63 percent from 2006 to 2011. This new, rising demand for locally sourced and organic produce is a boon to agro-industrial suppliers, and has caused growers everywhere to consider expanding their businesses.

In some places, it's hard to keep up with the growing demand for locally grown foods. In more dense suburban markets, farmers who want to expand encounter problems in areas where land is overpriced, or where not much land is available.

"It's very competitive between farmers right now," says Joe Gergela, executive director of the Long Island Farm Bureau in New York. Gergela would one day like to see local farmers get short-term leases for farming various unused properties and spaces that may have been ticketed for development before the housing bust but are now sitting idle.

Dedication to preserving all aspects of food production on the local level is what keeps slow food thriving among the many businesses that lend the movement support.

DAVE WINZELBERG - David Winzelberg is an award-winning reporter who spent 20 years writing for the New York Times. He currently writes for Long Island Business News.

This article originally appeared on The Atlantic Online as part of the Investing In A Better Tomorrow program.

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