Pa. leads US in number of farms selling directly to consumers


HARRISBURG, Pa. — More than 167,000 U.S. farms locally produced and sold food through direct marketing practices, resulting in $8.7 billion in revenue in 2015, according to King Whetstone, director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, Northeastern Region.

The results are from the first Local Food Marketing Practices Survey released Dec. 20. The report results cover both fresh and value-added foods, such as meat and cheese.

Farms selling food directly to institutions and intermediates, such as wholesalers who locally branded the product or food hubs, brought in the most revenue at $3.4 billion.

The next category, at $3 billion in sales, was from approximately 115,000 operations with direct-to-consumer sales, such as on-farm stores and farmers markets.

Sales directly to retailers were $2.3 billion from over 23,000 operations nationwide.

Top five

The top five states by value of total direct food sales were: California, $2,869 million; Michigan, $459 million; New York, $441 million; Pennsylvania, $439 million; and Wisconsin, $431 million.

Most farms selling directly to consumers sold through outlets such as farmers markets and on-farm stores.

Number of farms

Pennsylvania led the U.S. in the number of farms selling directly to consumers, with more than 6,000 operations engaged in direct to consumer sales.

California led in sales, earning $467 million. Only 8 percent of farms selling directly to consumers across the nation did so via online marketplaces, though 73 percent of all farms using direct marketing practices had internet access last year.

The survey also concluded that more than 80 percent of all direct market food sales occurred within 100 miles of the farm, and that most farms selling to consumers were less than 20 miles from their largest grossing marketplace.

Decision makers

Approximately 300,000 people were involved in making decisions for the farms that sold directly in 2015.

Of these, 62 percent were men and 38 percent were women — a higher proportion of women than among all farms, according to data from the 2012 Census of Agriculture.

The survey also found 77 percent of farms who direct marketed were established farmers, having farmed 10 or more years, and 14 percent were U.S. military veterans.

For additional survey results, visit or the Quick Stats database at

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