An interesting and hopeful article appears in the May 20, online edition of Business Week. www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/content/may2008/db20080520_920283.htm
It discusses the fact that the trend toward eating locally has led to both an increase in the number of farmers' markets in the U.S., (The U.S. Agriculture Dept. indicating the number of markets reached 4,692 in 2006, its most recent year of data, up 50% from five years earlier. Sales from those markets reached $1 billion,), but also an actual increase in the number of small farms.
According to the article: "After declining for more than a century, the number of small farms has increased 20% in the past six years, to 1.2 million, according to the Agriculture Dept."
As somebody who has been writing about farming for the past decade, I can't say how exciting and encouraging it is to see statistics that indicate small farms are on the increase.
Unfortunately, the good news is tempered with more of the same sad news, the large food retailers are also now "cashing in" on the local movement, much as they have done with the organic market. However, I guess to see the positive side to even this trend is to recognize that many consumers who would not normally have access to any locally grown fresh produce now do.
Lastly, the article points out that local produce is now starting to show up in all kinds of unexpected places aside from schools, like cafeterias of companies such as Target, Oracle, and DreamWorks.
My goal is to see more farm-to-school and farm-to-hospital programs and am doing my own small part to help make that happen.