More than 147,000 U.S. farms produced and sold food locally through direct marketing practices, resulting in more than $9 billion in revenue in 2020, according to the April 28, 2022 USDA “Local Food Marketing Practices” survey.

The survey found that direct farm sales of food rose from $8.7 billion in 2015 to $9 billion in 2020, with direct-to-consumer sales falling slightly in that time period, from $3 billion in 2015 down to $2.9 in 2020. Sales to retailers also fell, from $2.3 billion in 2015 to $1.9 billion. Direct farm sales to institutions (schools, colleges, universities, and hospitals) and local intermediary businesses (wholesalers, distributors, and processors) saw sales rise from $3.4 billion to $4.1 billion during 2015-20, the survey said.

USDA’s Local Food Marketing Practices survey collected data (covering fresh and value-added foods, such as meat and cheese) related to the marketing of foods directly from producers to consumers or retailers that then sell directly to consumers. The survey was administered in all 50 states and found fresh food products accounted for more than half (52%) of direct-to-consumer sales. Farms selling directly to consumers can include sales through farmers markets, on-site farm stores or roadside stands.

There were 40,675 farms selling food to institutions and intermediary businesses, with fresh commodities accounting for 56% of the total sales. Of those 40,675 farms, 19,655 (48%) sold fresh commodities, while 22,533 (55%) sold processed or value-added commodities. Fewer farms (24,137) sold directly to retailers than to individual consumers, institutions, or intermediaries. Sixty-two percent of sales to retailers such as grocery stores and restaurants were fresh foods.

The majority (57%) of farms marketing food directly were located in metropolitan counties. These farms accounted for 62% of all direct food sales. Approximately 78% of farms selling food directly sold all of their directly marketed food within a 100-mile radius of the farm.

California leads the pack in farm-to-consumer sales, with more than $1.4 billion in direct farm sales in the Golden State, accounting for 16% of the U.S. total.

At the regional level, the 11-state Northeastern region had the largest share of direct sales, with $2.5 billion (accounting for 28% of the U.S. total). Four of the top 10 states are located in the Northeastern region.

Top states for direct farm sales, according to USDA:

  • California —  $1.43 billion
  • Pennsylvania — $600 million
  • New York — $584 million
  • Michigan — $555 million
  • Maine — $342 million
  • Washington - $323 million
  • Texas — $273 million
  • Oregon — $255 million
  • Massachusetts — $254 million
  • Florida — $247 million

California also led the country in the number of farms selling food directly, with its 14,308 farms accounting for about 10% of the U.S. total. Texas was the only other state with more than 10,000 farms selling directly. Regionally, the Southwest (25,644) and Northeast (26,707 had the most farms engaged in direct-to-consumer sales of food.

About 300,000 individuals were involved in making decisions for the farms that sold food directly in 2020. Producers of farms that sold local food directly were more likely than all U.S. farms to be female and age 34 or younger.

Source: USDA-NASS, “USDA releases Local Food Marketing Practices Data