Quantifying the Multiplier Effect: What Sustainable Local Food Systems can Mean to Local Communities

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2012: $211,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:

Annual Reports


Not commodity specific


  • Education and Training: extension
  • Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, marketing management, farm-to-institution, feasibility study, agricultural finance, market study, value added
  • Sustainable Communities: ethnic differences/cultural and demographic change, local and regional food systems, new business opportunities, public participation, urban agriculture, urban/rural integration, employment opportunities, sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Seventy percent of consumers today say they want to know where their food comes from and how it was grown; they are also willing to pay more for locally produced food (Packaged Facts, 2007). Given that in North Carolina consumers spend $35 billion on food annually, there is broad interest in the state to develop a local food economy as a way to capture as much of this revenue as possible for local economies. Furthermore, current trends within the state suggest that these economic benefits could lead to a rise in civic agriculture (Lyson & Guptill, 2004) that would be accompanied by indirect societal (Goldschmidt, 194678) and environmental benefits (FAO Report, 2011). Despite this broad interest, there exists very limited data in the Southern Region that quantifies the potential impact on local communities, the type of information necessary to influence policy makers and others into making commitments towards investing in local infrastructure and other related fields/areas. The purpose of this project is to quantitatively evaluate the unique community impact of producing, processing, distributing, and selling agricultural goods locally (within the state for the purposes of this project) as compared to those imported from outside state lines. The information this project will gather has been selected with the help of an advisory council composed of a range of representative producers, distributors, and processors to answer stakeholders’ questions regarding the community impact, both direct and indirect, of purchasing local foods. While there often exists obvious benefits for producers to be able to market their goods locally (especially when selling direct), the indirect benefits that exist for the broader community are more subtle. We will study both how the economic as well as the indirect social and environmental impacts a good generates as it moves from producer to processor to distributor to consumer will be affected by whether it originated locally or not. Furthermore we will study how these effects affect non-agricultural sectors of the local economy within a socio-economic analysis paradigm inherent to Green GDP analysis (an approach which adjusts economic impact by changes in societal and environmental well being) that takes into account how households of various income levels are differentially affected. These analyses will consider differences in farming systems, differences in supply chain composition, differences in crops, differences in farm size, and differences in environmental stewardship practices. We will use the data collected to generate a predictive Social Accounting Matrix economic model (Miller and Blair, 2009) within a Green GDP framework so that geographic regions and subsets of the population that will benefit most from a shift to local goods can be targeted. Finally, using both educational materials as well as a video account to be produced as part of this project, we will disseminate these findings through a number of statewide initiatives that are currently integrated with both cooperative extension and many other private and public partners. Furthermore, these findings will be presented to the legislated NC Sustainable Local Food Policy council for the purpose of influencing policy formation.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Objective 1: Develop indicators using input from Advisory Group
    • Objective 2: Development of a Supply Chain Database
    • Objective 3: Assessment of Supply Chain’s Community Impacts
    • Objective 4: Creation of a Predictive Social Accounting Matrix
    • Objective 5: Implement Outreach and Dissemination

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.