Buying food locally is a goal to which many consumers aspire. Local produce is likely to be fresher than food shipped from hundreds or thousands of miles away, less shipping means less reliance on fossil fuels, and local farmers receive the benefits of local spending.
But what makes sense in theory can be difficult in practice. Try, for example, to find and purchase a locally grown carrot. In the traditional food system, local farmers and buyers have trouble connecting. A consumer seeking to check off a lengthy shopping list with local produce will have to identify and then travel to many farms, since most farms produce only a few types of food. Farmers have few marketing resources, and a farmer's base of individual customers tends to be restricted to the most conscientious buyers who live within a reasonable driving distance. In the end, many small farmers resort to typical distribution channels that involve numerous levels of shipping, processing, and handling, and the consumer buys at the supermarket. One result of our reliance on this food distribution system, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Dollar Series, is that only 17.2 cents of every dollar spent on a farmer's produce goes to the farmer.