Grass fed producers in Northeast Iowa expressed that one of their motivations for practicing grass-based management is the benefit it provides their local economy. Not only do their products help keep their families, neighbors, and community members healthy, it also keeps the dollars local. They know the economics of local foods and local business is increasingly important to the vitality of small, rural communities.
A study found that local retailers help return up to 52% of their revenue to the local economy while supply chain stores or national chain stores only return 14%. Capturing local dollars in this way not only increases the amount of money that goes back into our communities but the speed at which it recirculates – affecting employment and improving overall economic strength.
Across the United States, local foods and economic health seem to share an interesting connection. When comparing state rankings of Local Food Commitment with rankings of Economic Well-Being, 22 states landed on the top 25 of both lists, evidence that a state’s investment in local foods is linked to a strong local economy.
With funding from the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture, the local Regional Food Systems Working Group (RFSWG) conducted a study to quantify the impact of local food on the Northeast Iowa economy. Between 2012 and 2013, local farmers sold tens of millions of dollars of local food and dozens of full time positions were created – a trend that arguably, has not slowed down. At the time of the study, the US Census of Agriculture measured only direct-to-consumer sales and not commercial sales. In the RFSWG’s opinion, this underestimated the impact of local foods on Iowa’s economy.
The issue of keeping money local is nothing new and grass based producers like Jason Klinge embody this value. He notes, “I’m proud of raising grass-based livestock because it’s a healthy product, it’s good for my farm and the environment, and it keeps the money local. Pretty easy choice really.” A community that supports its local livestock producers helps improve the availability of good food AND allows small-scale livestock production to be a viable profession – directly impacting the community’s economy.