Scaling-up Connections between Regional Ohio Specialty Crop Producers and Local Markets: Distribution as the Missing Link

Jill K. Clark, Shoshanah Inwood and Jeff S. Sharp

Many local food systems advocates focus on increasing the number of farmers selling their products directly to consumers, but this type of direct marketing is only one strategy for increasing the consumption of local foods. Almost 90% of all food for home consumption is acquired from retail venues (such as grocery stores) (USDA, ERS, 2010), suggesting an important strategy to increase the consumption of Ohio-grown foods by Ohioans is to focus on increasing the flow of these foods through the state’s distribution and retail market systems. This research is the first attempt at inventorying the existing produce retail-distribution structure to identify opportunities, barriers, and the development needs associated with increasing the flow of Ohio-grown fruits and vegetables to existing retailers and ultimately Ohio consumers. This research draws on our review of previous food system studies, as well as interviews we conducted with Ohio retailers, and a survey of produce distributors in the state. The goal of this work is to generate useful information that can identify next steps in scaling-up the connections between Ohio specialty crop producers and Ohio retail markets.

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