Late Start on Farming Delays Locally-Grown Food

Updated: 06/05/2013 11:28 PM By: Josh Rosenthal

Jane Townsend likes to buy local, but this year she isn't having much luck.

"A lot of the local greens and herbs have not been available as much as I expect," she explained, "at the farmer's market and here at the grocery store."

Snow Aukema, the head produce buyer at Seward Co-op in Minneapolis, has noticed a big change too.

"Last year we would have had this whole thing filled with morels," Aukema pointed out. "This year, it's just kind of a little offering." She's says the change is a direct result of the weather.

Long story short, local farmers planted late so they harvested late and now markets are filling up late.

"It's just not ready. It's not available," said Aukema.

So what's all this mean for your bottom line? Aukema says the short supply of locally grown produce will not mean higher prices, but at least one finance professor says, 'not so fast.'

"It depends upon how severe a shortage gets," said University of St. Thomas Professor David Vang. "If it gets bad enough, there's just going to be too much temptation for the local farmer to not raise his prices if he or she knows she can get it."

Shoppers like Townsend will be happy to hear that one professional produce buyer still thinks there's time for local availability to turn around though. Aukema urges customers to "just keep waiting and you'll have the local produce at some point."

Vang says that even though he believes prices for locally grown produce could rise if the shortage becomes severe enough, he does not expect any price changes at major-chain grocery stores. He says that's because major-chain stores are accessing crops from throughout the Midwest, not just right in our backyard.