Buying Local: The New Normal?

  • June 22, 2020

It’s not just farmers in the Pacific Northwest calling for a renewed focus on food grown in the  U.S.. Bud Chiles, owner of 50 acres of blueberries in Florida and founder of the organization Demand American Grown, believes that buying local may be a new normal for America.

Chiles says most of the American public simply does not understand what is going on when it comes to buying food and it’s not their fault. Unfortunately product labels and local foods education haven’t been enough, he says. Consumers often don’t realize that they’re causing harm to local farmers by buying exported products. 

As Chiles began farming blueberries, he realized something was wrong. When selling his products, he felt that the benefit of buying local was not made clear enough. Chiles argues that American agriculture is often getting unfairly undercut by foreign exports. 

Due to this concern, Chiles and a group of blueberry growers in Florida and Georgia started Demand American Grown to help farmers get more support for marketing locally. As the organization developed, it has spread across the country and works with a variety of commodity groups around the country such as beef, dairy, and other fruits and vegetables.

In many cases, exports are cheaper to bring in to local markets, and “dumping” of products is a major issue. Demand American Grown’s main goal is to fight this problem. 

“A big part of why we want to do this–why we want to get unified farmers–is because the public will never, with the government’s oversight, be able to tell where a product comes from,” Chiles says.

The goal of Demand American Grown is to provide an opportunity for American farmers to get certification for their products. Through local agriculture associations, this organization makes sure that consumers can see directly that their food is coming from local family farms, using the American Grown label.

With changes due to Covid-19, Chiles sees a silver lining. “The pandemic has finally woken people up to the fact that it’s important to know where your food comes from,” he says. Despite the many challenges that the pandemic has caused, foreign exports have gone down. Through this, consumers have an opportunity to be more exposed to where their comes from and learn how valuable local family farmers are to both the economies and the local environment. 

To hear the full interview and to learn more, listen here: