Date of this Version
Local food system potentials were studied in Washington County, Nebraska. As a departure from most studies of locally based systems, farmers were surveyed in addition to consumers for potential participation. Data about the current food system and opinions and preferences for local production, marketing, and purchasing of food were collected using self-administered mail questionnaires. The response rate was 35% for the farmer survey and 37% for the consumer survey. Results indicated that, on the farming side of the food system, conventional corn and soybean production and marketing predominated in Washington County, and farmer interest in producing for local markets was low. Consumers reported a high level of interest in purchasing food from farmers’ markets, local grocery stores, local restaurants and directly from farms, and indicated a willingness to pay a price premium for local foods. They also reported that quality and taste were the most important factors in food purchase decisions, but environmentally friendly production and support for local farmers were also important. We conclude that there is tremendous potential for local marketing of farm products, but that there is a large gap between consumer demand and willingness of farmers to meet this demand. Further study of motivations and opinions of farmers is needed, in addition to determining production thresholds for the number of farms and farmers needed to meet local food demands.