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Madison – In the first national survey of its type, Wisconsin placed 5th among the states – narrowly trailing three others in the group – for the value of foods sold through direct marketing practices.

The report by the National Agricultural Statistics Service indicated that in 2015 more than 167,000 farms in the United States sold locally grown or produced foods valued at $8.7 billion – about 1 percent of the value of total food sales in the United States for a year. The local sales include both fresh and value-added foods such as cheese and meat.

Wisconsin's share of the sales value in 2015 was $431 million, which trailed the totals tallied in Michigan ($459 million), New York ($441 million), and Pennsylvania ($439 million), which also had the top number of direct sellers (more than 6,000), reflecting the number of Amish farmers in the state. California topped all other states with $2.869 billion on farm direct food sales in 2015.

Sales by category

Of the $8.7 billion in sales for the year, $3.4 billion was attributed to sales made directly to institutions and intermediates, such as food hubs or wholesalers who applied a local brand to the food product.

Another $3 billion in sales was derived by some 115,000 farm operations which sold directly to consumers at farmer's markets and on-farm stores. The balance of $2.3 billion was obtained in direct sales to retailers by more than 23,000 farm operations.

The report observed that only 8 percent of the direct sellers were making their sales via online marketplaces. It also noted, however, that 73 percent of the direct selling operations had access to the Internet during 2015.

According to the survey conducted to obtain the numbers, more than 80 percent of the direct market sales occurred within 100 miles of the farm where the food was grown or produced. A majority of the farms were less than 20 miles from their largest grossing marketplace.

Other findings of the survey were that nearly 300,000 people – 62 percent men and 38 percent women – were involved in making decisions on the farms that were engaged in direct sales of food. About 77 percent of those farms were being operated by people who had farmed for at least 10 years and 14 percent of them were operated by veterans.

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