By Tom Driscoll, Director of NFU Foundation and Conservation Policy

The market for local and regional food is an important one for beginning producers. A January 2015 report to Congress issued by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS) notes that “producer participation in local food systems is growing, and the value of local food sales…appears to be increasing.”

Beginning farmers often have more limited access to capital, land, and equipment than more established producers, often making it more difficult to get a business off the ground. But a growing interest in local food can help them secure a premium for their products through direct-to-consumer or local intermediated sales. In many cases, the departments of agriculture at the state level have pitched in to help beginning farmers and other producers connect with consumers interested in local food.

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, for example, offers the Virginia Grown program to in-state farmers and ranchers who sell in local markets. Eligible producers can use the Virginia Grown logo on marketing materials related to the sale of farm and agricultural products that are grown and harvested in Virginia. It’s as easy as downloading the label from the department, as long as the farmer’s use is not deceptive and any products marketed with the logo meet the Department’s quality standards. The Department also provides other helpful materials, like a seasonal availability chart and coloring book, to help participating Virginia farmers maximize the benefit of the Virginia Grown logo.

Does your state department of agriculture have a state-grown label? Would such a label be beneficial to your organization? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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