Seven billion dollars. That’s the figure that local food sales are predicted to reach nationally in 2012 according to a report released last month by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. ASAP estimates that Western North Carolina consumers alone purchased $62 million of local food in 2010, a fourfold increase since the Asheville-based nonprofit’s Appalachian Grown™ certification and branding program began in 2007. The organization’s recent consumer survey explains the increase: understanding that local food benefits local communities.
“We are way ahead of the rest of the country when it comes to supporting local farms,” says Charlie Jackson, ASAP’s executive director. ASAP’s survey, conducted this spring in the greater-Asheville area (Buncombe, Madison, and Henderson counties) and the state’s six westernmost counties found that a majority (55%) of respondents reported spending over onetenth of their food budget on locally grown products. More than 80% of respondents say they choose local food because the purchases help support local farms and contribute to the local economy.