For any retailer planning to expand their local food program, the Internet is a great place to start. During the past few years, thousands of small farms have gone online, with many setting up simple websites to help them better connect with potential shoppers or buyers. Below is a list of sites from nonprofits and federal agencies focused on local food issues. Most of these links offer searchable databases with contact information for local farms near any location in the country. Other sites here offer pages with news and information about local farming issues.
One of the most comprehensive resources for local food on the Internet, localharvest.org features an online database of thousands of farmers' markets, farms, community supported agriculture groups, natural food co-ops and restaurants serving local food, all searchable by name, product, ZIP code, city or state. The site also hosts farmers' blogs, photos of farms and an e-newsletter featuring farm profiles, news on seasonal foods and information about legislation relevant to small farmers.
The Rodale Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated primarily to improving and expanding organic agriculture, hosts this set of handy online databases on its website. Retailers can use this site to search for farms within 5 to 100 miles of a town, city, county, ZIP code or state. One database limits search results to a list of local farms that are set up to deal with commercial buyers, such as supermarkets and restaurants. A separate database includes farms that primarily sell direct-to-consumer.
The Agricultural Marketing Service division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture maintains this website featuring the latest official federal statistics on farmers' markets, along with trend reports, news stories, press releases about USDA-sponsored local food events, and information about how to start new farmers' markets.
ATTRA — National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, is funded by the USDA's Rural Business-Cooperative Service. The group's website hosts this resource, where users can find directories of local farms and local food promotional programs, all searchable by state.
This Web tool from the Natural Resources Defense Council enables users to see which produce items are in-season and available in their home state and neighboring states. The tool also offers links to seasonal harvest calendars and other local food resources hosted by state departments of agriculture. NRDC also makes the tool available for other websites to use for free.
The American Farmland Trust is a nonprofit organization that works with federal, state and local leaders to implement policies and programs geared toward supporting small farms and improving the economic viability of agriculture for small farmers and ranchers. This local food section of its website offers links to various education and news resources.