Financial Performance Implications of Local Food Enterprises

V2. June 2020

Best Practices for Assessing Food System Initiatives

The Economics Driving More Localized Food Marketing Strategies



Bauman, A., D. Thilmany, and B.B.R. Jablonski. 2017. “Evaluating the scale and technical efficiency among farms and ranches with a local market orientation. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.”

Thilmany McFadden, Dawn, Allie Bauman and Becca B.R. Jablonski. 2016. “The financial performance implications of differential marketing strategies: Exploring farms that pursue local markets as a core competitive advantage.” Presented as part of an organized symposium at the Applied and Agricultural Economics Association Annual Meeting, Boston, MA.

Angelo, Blake E., Becca B. R. Jablonski and Dawn Thilmany. 2016. “Meta-analysis of U.S. intermediated markets: Measuring what matters.” British Food Journal, 118(5): 1146-1162.

Trends in the U.S. Local and Regional Food Systems: A Report to Congress 



Data benchmarks are a point of reference from which measurements may be made, or something that serves as a standard by which others may be measured or judged. Insights derived from data benchmarks can help stakeholders assess how their existing or projected outcomes measure up against standard performance metrics in a related industry or function, and use this information to pinpoint which areas of a business model may need adjustment. Provided in this section are several resources and tools offering access to a wide range of data benchmarks for the direct farm marketing and local/regional food sector, which project managers and planners can use to develop realistic goals and criteria for continuous improvement.


Our project is a USDA-funded outreach and research project developing data-driven benchmarks that characterize unique dimensions of enterprises in the local food system. By creating a typology of common regional food marketing strategies, analyzing USDA data on the economic factors that make those enterprises unique and drawing from case studies to add information not available in current data sources, we will provide estimates of key financial benchmarks to inform economic assessment.

This information and summary analysis is intended to serve two purposes:

  • Educating managers and producers within the local food systems about basic economic and financial concepts and practices and how to report them.
  • Provide producers, economic development and community officials, and creditors information to assist them in assessing local food system operations and determine the contribution made to the local economy.

Used in conjunction with USDA-AMS’ “The Economics of Local Food Systems: A Toolkit to Guide Community Discussions, Assessments and Choices,” the outcomes of this project provide a local food producer, manager, champion or investor with the information and data necessary to provide an accurate, credible and comparable analysis of the contribution local foods make to the local economy.

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