About the Local Food Coalition
The Local Food Supply Chain Coalition supports our state’s sustainable farmers and producers to ensure Pennsylvanians have access to high-quality nutritious and culturally-appropriate food. We work with farmers, processors, producers, distributors, restaurants and retailers to re-localize the majority of our food production.
In order to focus our work on a particular part of our food system for our first project, we have formed the Local Grain Working Group, which includes production of local grains, beans and oilseeds. The working group is comprised of farmers, researchers, millers, malters, bakers, brewers, chefs, grocers, distributors, and farmers market managers who are working together to make sustainably grown Pennsylvania staples more accessible to eaters.
Over the past 100 years, the way we eat has changed dramatically. As our food production moved from small diverse family farms to large-scale monocultures, from small-scale processors to commercial manufacturers, from regional distributors to global trade, we have become separated from how we feed ourselves. The systems we set up — based on efficiency and profit — exploit workers, pollute our land and water, and often produce food that is nutritionally lacking and lifeless.
According to the 2017 Census of Agriculture, the largest farms in the US (at least $5 million in annual sales) make up less than one percent of total farms but 35% of all sales. In 2017, just 2.3 percent of food grown in the U.S. was sold locally. In Pennsylvania, as is the case across the US, the number of medium-sized farms is decreasing while big agriculture gets bigger; from 2012 to 2017, the number of harvest cropland from farms larger than 2,000 acres increased from 318,288 to 383,579.
As more of us have become aware of the problems large-scale industrial food systems have brought to our culture, health, and environment, we’ve started to rebuild an alternative system, re-learning how to grow food and feed ourselves. A resurgence in small farmers and farmers markets has fueled a growing interest in where our food comes from. Across Pennsylvania, eaters have increasingly more ways to access locally grown food, especially produce, meat, eggs and dairy.
The reclamation of staple food production by independently owned sustainable farms has lagged behind. But these crops -- like beans, grains, and oilseeds — make up a major portion of our diets and it is critical that we also grow these locally and sustainably.
Grains and beans play an important role in crop rotations; they prevent erosion, act as weed suppressors, and build soil health. They provide a source of accessible plant-based protein, which should take up more room on our plates than animal protein. They are storage crops, which means the supply can be more stabilized as our climate continues to destabilize; a stored bumper crop can hold us over during a bad harvest season.
These are not new crops in Pennsylvania. Farmers already grow corn, wheat, rye, sunflower and canola for oil. We need to continue to produce more of our staples locally; which requires infrastructure like combines, threshers and dehullers, storage bins and mills.
The local food movement should not be exclusive, and by intentionally including a diverse group of stakeholders, we can ensure that the local grains economy reflects and benefits the wide range of farmers, producers, and eaters in our state. - Katherine Rapin
What We Do
What citizens can do to support local food
Shop at farmers’ markets
Farmers markets are not only great places to purchase produce grown nearby; you can also find meat, dairy, eggs, honey and other locally made products.
Ask your grocer to carry local food
As a customer, you have a say in what your grocery store stocks the shelves with. Make a list of local products you love and share them with a store manager. It’s also important to patronize locally-owned grocery stores, especially those that stock locally produced foods.
Support independently-owned food businesses
There are many local independent food companies who make ice cream, cheese, yogurt, bread, crackers, pasta, soups, sauces, jams and jellies. Seek them out! There are also products made by independently-owned small-batch artisan food companies located in other communities that are available in our local grocery stores. These products add variety to locally produced foods, while supporting community-based independent businesses in other regions.
Ask restaurants about how they source ingredients
This is especially important with meat and animal products. Ask if the pork on the menu is pastured and what farm it comes from. Ask if the chicken is free range and the eggs from uncaged hens. Ask if the beef is grass-fed and what farm it comes from. Consider making a pledge to only eat meat that is raised in a humane way on a family farm and not from the cruel and environmentally harmful industrial system.
Want to get involved in the Local Food Coalition?