How can strong local and regional food economies strengthen our Texas economy?

How can local food enterprise strengthen your local economy?

Local Foods System DiagramWhere does the money flow in the chart to the right?  Texas writes a big check for food to California and Mexico.

Grab something out of your cupboard.  Now use the chart to the right and see if you can figure out where each step takes place. What's the value to your community for this product?

Preparation & Consumption - Is this at your house or a local restaurant?

Resource & Waste Recovery - If that's a recyclable package and you recycle, this probably happens in your community too.  If you compost, that's local too.

Food Production - Where were the ingredients grown?  in Texas?  California, Mexico, or China?  Can you tell from the label?

Distribution & Aggregation - How did the product arrive at the place where you bought it?  Probably by truck through a distribution center somewhere far from your community.

Food Processing - Where was this product made?  The label probably says "Manufactured for ..." and the place it was manufactured.  Is that in your town or nearby?  Where was the container made? 

Marketing - Where is the marketing company that created the label, logo, and handsome graphics?  Chicago?  New York?  In your town or city?

Markets & Purchasing - You probably bought this at your local grocery store and that store provides jobs in your community.   Would you say these are good jobs?  Who owns the grocery store and where are they located?

When you think about the value of local food, consider each of the steps in the food system and the value each brings to your community?  Does it provide local jobs?  Does it bring money to your community?  Does it support Texas agriculture?

Look back at your list.  How many of the distant locations could be changed to local ones? Maybe some are easy changes just by being more aware of your choices. Others will take effort.  And still others cannot be changed (for example, we don't have salmon in Texas).  It's your awareness that matters and you can move the needle toward buying more local food.  Keeping your money at home makes a real difference in your community.'

Keeping your money at home makes a real difference in your community!

Local Food Resources

The Food Corridor - Resources for the shared kitchen community.

Network for Incubator & Commissary Kitchens (NICK) - Facebook group for Incubator Kitchens

Municipal Action Guide - Food Based Business Incubator Programs.

Farmland Access - Helping farmers and landowners affordably access, transfer, and conserve farmland.

Sustainable Food Systems Sourcebook is a free database of degree programs, consultants, scholarship funding, conferences, and other education and training resources for professionals and students focused on food systems work.  It is published by the Thomas A. Lyson Center for Civic Agriculture and Food Systems.

Rural Gives Sacramento New Direction (Wallace Center)

Video from the City of Chicago introducing the reasons they are strengthening their local food economy.

Why Local Food Matters - USDA presentation to National Assoc. of Counties, Debra Tropp, USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, March, 2014 (PDF)

Farmers Talking with non-Farmers Tips (Farm and Dairy, Ohio) - tips for farmers

Food and Agriculture (topical articles from Union of Concerned Scientists)

News: Can Organic Farming Boost Economies?  (Civil Eats, 2016)  Hint: Maybe .. maybe not.  More data is needed.

USDA Food Hub series of 4 reports draw on national data and case studies to understand why some food hubs have failed in an effort to learn from their mistakes and identify general lessons so new and existing food hubs can overcome barriers to success.
      Volume 1                Volume 2                 Volume 3                Volume 4

Texas AgriLife Today - blog from your Texas A&M AgriLife Extenson Service; 2017 rural economic development project

Selling Food is Good Business in the Capital Area - But What About Food Production?  Capital Area Council of Governments, Jan, 2017

Local Food as an Economic Development Driver - seminar for community leaders held in Elgin in April 2016.  Links to PDF's of agenda and presenter slides are below.  We also made "home movie" quality video of the event and will post as we have it.

The City of Austin's food systems work is the best in the state.  Their site has an excellent list of reports about Austin and central Texas.  Here is a PDF of the 2016 City of Austin State of the Food System Report.

Farm to Table Caucus Advances Local Food Movement - How the bi-partisan Texas legislative caucus is addressing food policy and why (Texas Tribune, Sept. 2012)

University of Texas Nutrition Institute 

Feasibility of a Texas Food Hub - National Center for Appropriate Technology, 2015 (PDF)

Who Are The Organic Farmers in Texas? - National Center for Appropriate Technology, 2016 (PDF)

The Shared Kitchen Toolkit: A Practical Guide for Planning, Launching and Managing a Shared Use Commercial Kitchen is a comprehensive guide to starting a new shared-use or incubator kitchen. It provides an overview of emerging kitchen models and highlights opportunities to enhance the community impact and financial sustainability of shared kitchens.

Opening Community Facilities to Food Entrepreneurs: Guidance for Communities and Facility Operators is a guide that focuses on the opportunity for existing kitchens in community-serving facilities (such as community centers) to provide kitchen access to food entrepreneurs. It provides practical steps for establishing a rental program, profiles Kitchen Connect programs, and highlights ways stakeholders can support kitchen access.

Food, Farms, and Community: Exploring Food Systems by Lisa Chase and Vern Grubinger

Do you understand what food systems are?  Many people don’t and it's not easy to explain. This book is a great introduction – learn how our food gets from production to consumption and how we can create food and farming systems that promote the health of people and planet.

The End of Plenty: The Race to Feed a Crowded World by Joel K. Bourne, Jr.

A look at industrial farming and how food production must change to meet demands. The food situation is actually better than it was 20 years ago. There's more organic, local, and seasonal growing. It’s inspiring that students are interested in these issues now and we can make progress without overturning the whole system.

From Field to Fork: Food Ethics for Everyone by Paul Thompson

Should we buy organic or local? Should we care how farm animals are raised? Ethical dilemmas impact the way we shop for food. For people who aren't trained in ethics, it's sometimes hard to think about these things, and this book can help you start to sort it out.

Organic Struggle: The Movement for Sustainable Agriculture in the United States by Brian K. Obach

This book has a good discussion of the development of the organic standards. It explains the importance of maintaining strict organic standards, and why there's such intense conflict about them. One of the biggest issues facing the organic industry is confidence in the standards.

Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean & Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry

Bryant Terry is truly concerned about the health of African Americans who tend to have much higher levels of chronic disease so he sets out to demonstrate that it's possible to cook a healthier, vegan diet using the ingredients of traditional African cuisine like collards, grits, and okra. A unique book.

Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in Americaby Liz Carlisle

This book is interviews of farmers in Montana and their success stories. She’s passionate. The farmers are passionate. It's an inspiring story.

Breadlines Knee-Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depressionby Janet Poppendieck

If you want to understand the Farm Bill and the fight about food stamps - read this book. There was a lot of congressional fighting over SNAP from the beginning and it continues even now.

Lethal but Legal: Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Healthby Nick Freudenberg

This book shows the parallels between food issues and things like cigarettes, guns, and alcohol. Food producers use the same corporate strategies as these other industries to enrich themselves at the expense of public health. Freudenberg writes about ways for organizing against corporate power to create a healthier more sustainable environment.

CDFA Defining the Food System Asset Class - Learn about traditional financing approaches for local food systems

Housing and Transportation Affordability Index - search by city to learn how much of their income families spend on housing and transportation combined

Opportunity Zones - Promising or Problematic?  (2018 by Capital Area Council of Governments)

Do Farm-to-School Programs Create Local Economic Impacts?  Choices magazine (Agricultural & Applied Economics), Jan, 2017

Growing Economies: Connecting Local Farmers and Large-scale Food Buyers to Create Jobs and Revitalzie America's Heartland - Insitutional buyers, mid-size farms help rural economies (2016 Union of Concerned Scientists)

Key Studies: Why Local Matters - good summaries of a number of articles;  good place to start!

Economic Benefits of Local Food North Dakota State University

Civic Economics - Many empirical studies of the benefits of supporting local retail stores

BALLE is a network of local business with lots of good resources at this link.

Good infographic from Local First West Michigan

Duncan, Arizona: Local Food as Economic Development - editorial, City mouse vs. country mouse (The Copper Era, Nov, 2016)

Did the Local Food Movement Trickle Down to Local Farmers? (August, 2016 Dawn Thilmany, Union of Concerned Scientists)

Differential expenditure patterns of local food system participants - research on expenditure patterns of farms that sell through local markets (defined as direct to consumer and intermediated markets by USDA’s Economic Research Service).  (2015, Jablonski and Schmit)

Why Local Food Matters:  The rising importance of locally-grown food in the U.S. food system, A National Persepctive (PDF; March, 2014 USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, Debra Tropp)

Lane County, Oregon Local Food Market Analysis and their study (PDF) Growing the Economy by Growing Food

The Crossroads Center many excellent food system assessments are examples of what's possible in Texas!


Cherry Capital Foods - Traverse City, large Michigan food hub with rental kitchens; angel investor; very long payback; very cool building.

Piedmont Food and Agricultural Center - rural jobs through entrepreneurism.  North Carolina fabulous facility for Makers; not enough storage space.

The Starting Block - incubator kitchen; we love these people; they run very lean, maybe too lean for their comfort; 35+ graduates as of 2015.

Oklahoma Food and Agricultural Products Center - Our Texas Center for Local Food consultant team is here and they are brilliant.

Earth Elements Kitchen -  April Harrington is consulting for us; former farmer; 20 years experience; strong biz orientation.

NC Growing Together - providing technical assistance and research to bring locally grown food to mainstream markets (North Caroline)

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