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00000179-cdc6-d978-adfd-cfc6d7ca0000Harvest Public Media is a reporting collaboration focused on issues of food, fuel and field. Based at KCUR in Kansas City, Missouri, Harvest covers agriculture-related topics through a network of reporters and partner stations throughout the Midwest.Like Harvest Public Media on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @HarvestPM.

Ag Department Commissions Local Direct Farm Sales Survey

Eugene Kim, flickr Creative Commons

Local food was worth $8.7 billion to farmers last year.

The Agriculture Department commissioned a survey to get a handle on the economic impact of the local food industry. The results are in: More than 167,000 farms across the U.S. sold produce, milk, and meat directly to shoppers in 2015.

The largest chunk of sales – about 40 percent – came from local schools, hospitals and wholesalers.

"The next sizeable category, which covered 115,000 operations, and was certainly the largest category in terms of total number of operations that were involved, was direct to consumer sales," says National Agricultural Statistics Service's Joe Parsons. "So that’s on farm sales, on-farm stores, farmers markets, roadside stands, those sorts of things."

Grocery stores and restaurants bought up the remaining $2.4 billion in food straight from the farm.