"All models are wrong but some are useful." -- George Box (1978)
Local economic impacts are not easily assessed, particularly in what are often in relatively lightly populated, agricultural areas. Standard analytical tools tend to be effective in more densely populated and commercially linked areas…but less so when applied to the smaller scale, local foods trade.
Measuring the strength of local social and commercial networks (using tools such as the 2015 USDA AMS Tookit) offers an alternative to standard economic impact analysis.
"Effective intervention from outside requires gaining adequate knowledge of unique local conditions and appreciating prevailing local assets."
- Ken Meter and Megan Phillips Goldenberg, Crossroads Resource Center
The problem is that anecdotal evidence often seems much more compelling than dry statistics. Man seems to have a tendency to impart information in the form of a story. This is often known as the availability heuristic and leads to arguments like "Smoking's not dangerous. My mother smoked 40 cigarettes a day and lived to 90"... Official data are often flawed and need to be revised; we should always be on the lookout for rogue items that stand out from the general trend. But economic statistics are (generally) honest attempts to make sense of vast, complex systems. They offer a more robust view of the world than your brother-in-law or the story your neighbour heard at work."
The Economist, Buttonwood's Notebook, Sept. 3, 2012