By Mary Kuhlman, Ohio Public News Service
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Federal lawmakers are ramping up their work on the 2018 Farm Bill, and some Ohio farm groups and producers say measures to boost local foods should be included.
Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown says the Local FARMS Act he introduced in the Senate can help family farmers and local growers reach new markets and improve access to fresh foods for Ohioans.
That was the exact mission of Betsy Anderson and others in Wooster when they created Local Roots Market and Café eight years ago.
“The connection to the food is just so different when you grow it yourself,” she says. “And our market gives people an opportunity to meet with the farmers and really see exactly where their food’s coming from. People just seem really happy.”
The Local FARMS Act includes investments in programs such as the Local Food Promotion Program, which Local Roots have utilized to enhance the cooperative over the years. The House Committee on Agriculture is holding a hearing on the 2018 Farm Bill today.
Anderson says Local Roots and the area economy have both benefited thanks to funding from the program. She explains the market was able to expand its advertising, and bring in more local shoppers and sellers.
“The producers are from our communities,” she notes. “We had about 200 already selling products, and then we got up to about 284. And sales continue to increase. We saw a bit over half a million dollars a year in local product.”
According to USDA data, more than 167,000 U.S. farms produced and sold food through farmers markets and other similar channels in 2015, generating nearly $9 billion in earnings for local producers. The 2018 Farm Bill could move to the full House by mid-March and be in the Senate in May.