Previous Research

The Rural Impact of Urban Concentrated Local Food Initiatives — Researchers and strategists emphasize productive ties between rural and urban places to support rural prosperity and resilience. Market interactions form a critical aspect of rural-urban linkages and researchers and practitioners point to opportunities within re-localized food systems to enhance rural resilience and support lagging rural regions. However, despite the tremendous growth in local food system initiatives, the distribution of activity has not been uniform as efforts and resources concentrate in urban areas. The first part of this ongoing research project explores the literature on the role of rural-urban economic linkages on rural communities, examining evidence for re-localized food systems as a viable strategy to support rural economic development. Based on previous literature, this research finds that rural communities have much stronger ties with urban communities than the reverse; thus pointing to the fact that impacts from urban based initiatives may not reach rural areas. Additionally, there is evidence to show that rural communities proximate to urban areas are likely to benefit disproportionately to more distant rural communities. The results of this literature review contribute to how planners and policy makers think about, measure, and evaluate opportunities for rural resilience through rural-urban linkages and local food systems.

Quantifying the Economic Impact of Regional Food Hubs — This project, which includes a small interdisciplinary team at Cornell (Becca Jablonski, Todd Schmit, and David Kay) leveraged funding from the USDA AMS (Cooperative Agreement Number 12-25-A-5568), and NESARE (Graduate Student Grant Number 11-021) to develop a best-practice methodology to evaluate the economic contributions of food hubs to participating farms and local economies. Through applying the methodological framework to a case study food hub in New York State, we found that food hubs increase market access for farms, particularly those that are mid-scale. Additionally, we found a gross output multiplier of 1.82, indicating that for every additional dollar of final demand for food hub products, an additional $0.82 is generated in related industrial sectors. However, the community economic impact of food hubs is not pure, as an increase in final demand for food hub output diverts sales from other local wholesale and distribution businesses. Full results from this research can be found on the USDA AMS’ website:

Assessing the Economic Impacts of Local Food System Producers by Scale: A Case Study from New York — Policymakers and economic developers are increasingly interested in the impacts of local food systems, yet attempts to obtain accurate empirical estimates are often complicated by a lack of available data that define specific inter-industry linkages. By utilizing a unique data set from a random sample of producers in New York, we examine the extent of differential purchasing and sales patterns for small- and medium-scale producers that participate in local food systems. The supplemental data are integrated into a Social Accounting Matrix (SAM) framework to derive economic multipliers, differentiated by farm size, and to assess the distributional implications of alternative policies. We demonstrate that these local food participants have different input expenditure patterns than other agricultural producers, and that the differences lead to higher total output, value added, and labor income multipliers. Our results underscore the local economic benefits of small- and mid-scale local food system participants. A working paper of version of this research can be found on the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management’s website: (see 14-15 and 13-16).

Rural Wealth Creation: a framework to evaluate the impacts of alternative food systems — This research utilizes the literature on farmers’ markets as a lens to evaluate the potential for local food systems to enhance wealth creation (i.e., asset building and capital creation) in rural communities. With a focus on financial, social, human and natural capitals, and particularly on their interrelationships, this research demonstrates that using a wealth creation approach to measure the impacts of local food initiatives paints a far different picture than evaluating the same strategy by its economic impact alone. Preliminary results from this research can be found in an edited volume entitled Rural Wealth Creation.

Local Food Intermediaries—Do They Matter in the NYS Economy? Evidence that ‘local’ food sales are dominated by farms that sell through intermediated markets continues to grow (e.g., Low and Vogel 2011). Intermediated markets include most farm-to-school, farm-to-institution, and farm-to-restaurant sales, where access to consumers is facilitated through an intermediary business (i.e., a distributor, broker, or regional food hub). Policy makers, encouraged by the mounting evidence, are seeking opportunities to expand intermediated markets, thereby increasing opportunities for farmers, and facilitating the availability of NYS-grown agricultural product to NYS consumers. This research focuses on the role of local food intermediaries (henceforth, ‘LFI’) in facilitating the distribution of agricultural products. In addition, it identifies barriers to the growth and efficiency of mediated transactions, assesses the economic impact of policies that support the development of LFI, and proposes policy recommendations. For the full policy brief, click here: Smart Marketing June 2012