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Alta. tracks rise in local ag market spending

A new study of Alberta consumers’ food-buying habits shows “impressive” growth or potential in the local food market segment.

About 90 per cent of Alberta households surveyed in September 2008 by the provincial ag department indicated they had purchased local food in the past 12 months and nearly a third of Alberta households said they will buy more local food in the next year.

“Thinking beyond traditional marketing can be rewarding and producers need to explore their options,” Agriculture Minister George Groeneveld said in a release Wednesday outlining the study’s results.

The study, which surveyed over 1,000 randomly selected households, “confirms that opportunities are growing for those willing to adopt new ways of thinking about their products, customers and our industry,” he said.

The province said its study looked at the growth and potential growth of alternative agriculture markets over the past five years and found farmers’ markets to be “more popular than ever” while pointing to growth potential for farm activity and direct-farm retail markets.

Since 2004, the average spending per visit to an Alberta farmers’ market has risen from $35 to $45 — a 30 per cent increase, the province said, and well in excess of inflation. Spending at farmers’ markets rose from $317 to $449 per year per household.

Currently, the province said, farmers’ markets in Alberta have an estimated $380 million in annual sales, up from $233 million in 2004.

Participation in farm activities was also up over the past five years, the province said. Per-trip spending changes for farm activities saw a 40 per cent increase from $124 to $174, and there was a seven per cent increase in spending for direct farm retail, up from $109 to $116.

Food grown or produced in local markets “dominated” what customers were buying at the different on-farm businesses, the province said, and accounted for $4 out of every $5 spent there.

Revenue from such on-farm activities is estimated at $62 million and direct-farm retail is valued at $181 million, the province said.

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