It's far easier for large food purchasers in Nashville to buy produce from 2,000 miles away than it is to buy produce that was grown next door. For example, a school might need to call 20 local farms to find lettuce for its salad bar, while it could order a hundred pounds of lettuce from a distributor like Sysco with one mouse click. And even if they did find the lettuce locally, how would they get it? Most small farms lack the funds needed for refrigerated trucks, efficient cold storage, and other services like washing and packaging that most larger buyers demand.
As a result, local farms are largely excluded from the mainstream food system: grocery stores, school and hospital cafeterias, restaurants, and caterers. Yes, farmers markets and CSAs have allowed some farms to thrive despite being locked out of the food supply chain--but if local food is ever going to make up a sizable amount of our food consumption, we need to think bigger.