Cornhusker Economics July 22, 2015
Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska: Connecting Farmers to Consumers for 10 Years
The local food movement has gained strength nationwide as well as right here in Nebraska. The production and consumption of nearly table ready food has gained popularity and has an important economic impact for those farmers and businesses involved in that segment of agriculture. The past decade has seen substantial and growing interest in the promotion of local food systems throughout the United States. The increasing consumer demands for fresh local produce and other farm products are driven by the beliefs that local food production systems are more sustainable, healthy, and supportive of local economies. As a testament to rising consumer demands, sales of local food through direct markets have grown tremendously —annual direct-market sales in the U.S. increased from $511 million in 1997 to $1.2 billion in 2007 (Martinez et al., 2010)1.
The Nebraska Cooperative Development Center (NCDC) in the Agricultural Economics Department at UNL has hosted the Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska (BFBLN) program since its inception in Nebraska ten years ago. The Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society partnered with NCDC to gather resources to get the program started, and NCDC has been responsible for its management since that time. BFBLN brings awareness of the local food systems in Nebraska.
BFBLN is a membership-based program that includes farmers, but also farmers markets, businesses, and institutions that utilize and feature locally grown foods in their operations. Grocery stores, wholesale businesses and institutional users such as UNL utilize the positive aspects of food grown close to where it is consumed.
For example, UNL Housing has the Good, Fresh, Local (GFL) program that features special monthly meals at the Cather/Pound/Neihardt dining center as well as in the East Campus Union. The Catering Department offers a GFL menu as an option, and a few GFL items are offered at Abel/Sandoz, Harper, and Selleck dining centers. The GFL program sources locally grown foods from 70 farms and food businesses in Nebraska from Scottsbluff to Omaha and everywhere in between. The BFBLN program and NCDC were involved in the start-up of the GFL program in 2005.
A primary effort of the BFBLN program is the continuing education of consumers and connecting them to local farmers. Coordinator Billene Nemec promotes the BFBLN program and appears at numerous venues each year, promoting the use and enjoyment of the foods grown by BFBLN farmer members. She also promotes the Nebraska businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants that source Nebraska grown foods in their operation. BFBLN annually produces 10,000 copies of a local food guide that helps consumers all across our state source the locally grown foods they want to purchase for their family.
Additionally, the BFBLN website is a source of up-to-date information on such things as eating seasonally, food security, supporting Nebraska farms, and the economic impact of eating locally.
BFBLN provides educational information to farmers as well on topics such as how to get started, the benefits of selling local food, selling to restaurants, selling to institutions, direct marketing, selling online, selling wholesale, and selling at the farmers market. BFBLN has information for farmers on using social media to market their business, utilizing high tunnels for production and season extension, good agricultural practices, business and enterprise planning, and requirements for marketing production at a farmers market. The BFBLN program promotes members by featuring a "member of the week". This feature on both the web page and the BFBLN Facebook page allows consumers to take a more in-depth look at a farm or business.
"Encouraging the purchase and enjoyment of locally grown food" is the simple yet impactful mission statement of the Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska program. Locally grown and produced foods are exceptionally fresh, delicious, and are becoming more abundant. Local food is fresher and tastes better than food shipped long distances from other states or countries, so it often reaches you within 24 hours of harvest. Local farmers can offer produce varieties bred for taste and freshness rather than for shipping and long shelf life.
Nebraska Cooperative Development Center
University of Nebraska
1Martinez, S., Hand, M., Da Pra, M., Pollack, S., Ralston, K., Smith, T., & Newman, C. (2010). Local food systems; Concepts, impacts, and issues (Economic Research Report No. 97). Washington, DC: Economic Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture.