Vermont Tops The Foodies' Locavore Index

Index of local food availability suggests room for growth of farmers markets and CSAs in Northeast states.

Published on: May 17, 2012

In what state would you expect to find it the most abundant local food supply? California? Nope, not even close on a per capita basis.

Try the small scenic state of Vermont. Based on the number of farmers markets and Community Supported Agriculture farms and the state's population, the Green Mountain State tops the new Locavore Index, a state ranking system of availability of locally produced foods – what USDA Deputy Ag Secretary Kathleen Merrigan calls "the biggest retail food trend in my adult lifetime."

The Locavore Index was recently developed and announced by Vermont's The Strolling of the Heifers organization using USDA and US Census data from 2010 and 2011. The index measures the availability of locally-sourced foods.

LOCAVORE PRO: Ben Hewitt, a small-scale producer from Hardwick,Vt.,wrote a book titled "The Town that Food Saved" about the local food movement.
LOCAVORE PRO: Ben Hewitt, a small-scale producer from Hardwick,Vt.,wrote a book titled "The Town that Food Saved" about the local food movement.

The shocker, in terms of state ranking, was Iowa. The "Tall Corn State" ranked number two, even though it tallied a significantly lower per capita score.

Where did California rank? Number 41 of 50. Of course, nearly a 39-million population had a lot to do with it.

Only Maine and New Hampshire, which ranked fourth and 13th, respectively, made the top 20. Rhode Island ranked No. 24; Massachusetts and Connecticut ranked No. 28 and 29, respectively. Pennsylvania and Maryland ranked 38th and 39th, respectively, on the list. New York came in 42nd. Delaware ranked 45th. And, surprisingly, New Jersey was ranked 48th. To see the underlying data and the tabulations, click on.

Locavore_Index  

"Locavorism is on the rise everywhere," says Orly Munzing, founder and executive director of Strolling of the Heifers. "So there's no stigma in being closer to the bottom of the list. Our research shows that CSAs and Farmers Markets, as well as Farm-to-Plate programs, which bring local foods into schools and other institutional food systems, are becoming more numerous every day in every state."

As a movement, locavorism advocates a preference for local food for a variety of reasons. Local foods:

  • Travel much shorter distances to market than typical fresh or processed grocery store foods, using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases
  • Are fresher, therefore healthier, spend less time in transit from farm to plate, and lose fewer nutrients and incur less spoilage
  • Encourage diversification of local agriculture, reducing reliance on monocultures – continuous cropping of single crops
  • Encourage consumption of organic foods, reducing reliance on artificial fertilizers and pesticides
  • Create local jobs by supporting family farms and developing local food processing and distribution systems
  • Connect more people with local food producers

"The average carrot sold in a supermarket travels more than 1,800 miles to get there," Munzing said. "Wouldn't you rather eat a carrot grown nearby, by a farmer you can meet? And wouldn't you like that to be true of most of your food, whether it's meat, dairy, vegetables or fruits?"

Based in Brattleboro, Vt., Strolling of the Heifers is best known for its annual parade. The 11th annual Strolling of the Heifers will on June 2. Heifer calves and other farm animals, bedecked with flowers, are led up Brattleboro's historic Main Street. When it's over, the crowd follows the parade to the Stroll's all-day Live Green Expo for food, entertainment, education and fun.

A second annual Slow Living Summit, a conference focused on sustainability and community resilience, takes place also in Brattleboro, May 30-June 1. It draws concerned citizens from many organizations to explore and network around "slower" — more sustainable — approaches to many aspects of living ranging from food and agriculture to health and spirituality.