This Holiday, Farmers Report Consumers Are Shopping Locally for Food
SHELBY, N.C. – Shelby dairy farmer Ashley Bridges has a welcome problem this holiday season – she can't keep enough product on the shelves of the retailers and consumers who are demanding it.
A third-generation farmer, five years ago Bridges decided to transition her Guernsey cows completely to grass-fed and now produces milk and cheese for local restaurants and markets.
"If every dairy farmer realized the niche market of especially grass-fed products, I really think every dairy farmer would be making cheese," she says.
Bridges says demand for her products has increased by 50 percent this year. A couple of years ago, she received a grant from Rural Advancement Foundation International USA – an organization that advocates for family farmers and also provides support.
RAFI is partially funded through donations and is accepting monetary gifts through the end of the year to support more innovative farmers like Bridges.
Bridges says the growing effort by consumers to not only buy local, but to understand what they're consuming is driving her business.
"I am conscious about what I eat, because I'm conscious about what my family eats,” she explains. “Therefore I'm conscious about what my cows eat."
The FDA is still accepting public comment for the Food Safety Modernization Act, which will impact farmers such as Bridges.
The law – passed in 2011 – was intended to address food safety problems in the industrial food system, but the proposed regulations will have an unintended effect of increasing costs for small farms by requiring additional equipment and practices that RAFI-USA says aren't applicable to smaller farms.