What Makes A Food "Local?"

Connecting the Present to the Past

In the early 1900s, nearly 40 percent of Americans lived on farms, compared with 1 percent in 2000, and much of the food bought and consumed in the United States was grown locally (Pirog, 2009). Communities gained knowledge of the quality of foods through direct contact with farmers. Aside from canning, dehydrating, salting, or smoking, few foods were processed or packaged, and fruits and vegetables, fish, and dairy products typically traveled less than a day to market (Giovannucci, et al., 2010).

Steve Martinez, Michael S. Hand, Michelle Da Pra, Susan Pollack, Katherine Ralston, Travis Smith, Stephen Vogel, Shellye Clark, Luanne Lohr, Sarah Low, and Constance Newman. (2010). Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Economic Research Service, p. 1

The other sections of this exhibit examine what happened when it was possible for consumers to have access to foods that traveled more than a day to market. The focus of this examination will be on the ways in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture identified the best ways to get food to local consumers from farmers through the early "Farm-to-Table" movement, and the ways that food was sold at roadside stands and early farmers markets.