A federal push to invest $650,000 in the Local Foods, Local Places program, which has a goal of providing direct technical support to rural communities to help them build strong local food systems, was recently participated in by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Delta Regional Authority.

While the application period for access to a portion of the $650,000 investment has passed, this program tied into a larger push from the White House to encourage the development of strong rural economies through local food production.

In Morehouse Parish, residents have access to a wide variety of produce at the Morehouse Farmers' Market where local foods are available Monday through Saturday.

"I try to buy anything locally or in the state of Louisiana I can buy," Don Costin, manager, told the Enterprise during a June interview.

Costin purchases a portion of the produce sold at the market directly from area farmers while others are sold directly to consumers by the growers.

According to the Project for Public Spaces, farmers' markets not only support local economies through the collection of local and state sales tax but also by increasing patronage of businesses in the surrounding area.

For example, in a 2002 survey of shoppers from markets, PPS found that 60 percent of market shoppers visited nearby stores on the same day and 60 percent of those respondents said they only shopped at the additional stores on the day the farmer's market was visited.

At the Morehouse Farmers' Market, customers can shop for produce, buy local products, such as baked goods, jellies and honey, and if the PPS survey findings can be accurately applied to Morehouse Parish, continue down East Madison and patronage local businesses along the courthouse square, which increases the economic benefit of shopping for food from local suppliers.

Reporter's Note: This article is the first in a series focused on local foods and local economies.