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Farm business financial performance in local foods value chains

Mary Clare Ahearn (USDA, ERS, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA)
Kathleen Liang (CAES, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro, North Carolina, USA)
Stephan Goetz (Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pennsylvania, USA)

Agricultural Finance Review

ISSN: 0002-1466

Article publication date: 19 March 2018

Issue publication date: 30 July 2018




The purpose of this paper is to identify the factors associated with farm financial success for those farms known to produce for local supply chains. The analysis considers alternative measures of farm financial performance and considers the role of the local foods supply chain in the choice to market locally.


The paper uses a two-stage Heckman approach which addresses the possibility of sample selection bias. In the first stage, the choice model to engage in direct marketing is estimated. In the second stage, the authors estimate a model of the financial performance of those in the sample that direct marketed which includes an IMR term calculated from the parameters of the first stage equation. The analysis uses national farm-level data from the Agricultural and Resource Management Survey of the US Department of Agriculture and combines data from 2009 to 2012 to overcome the constraint of small samples.


Indicators of the development of a local foods supply were positively related to the choice to engage in direct marketing. Factors affecting farm financial performance varied significantly between a short-term and a long-term measure. The results emphasize the importance of considering multiple outcome measures, developing local supply chains and provide implications about beginning farms.


If a local foods system is going to thrive, the farms that market the agricultural products in the local food system must attain a certain level of profitability. The value of the analysis is an improved understanding of the financial performance of farms producing for a small, but growing segment of the food supply chain.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the comments of Jason Brown, Hisham El-Osta, the Editor, and anonymous reviewers. This research was supported, in part, by the USDA, NIFA, AFRI Foundational Grant 2011-67023-30106. The views expressed here are not necessarily the views of the USDA.


Ahearn, M.C., Liang, K. and Goetz, S. (2018), "Farm business financial performance in local foods value chains", Agricultural Finance Review, Vol. 78 No. 4, pp. 470-488.



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