A Vermont-based organization that advocates local food has released their annual report called “2015 The Locavore Index”. The 2015 Locavore Index ranks states that do the best in consuming locally-produced food. They use a formula considering the number of farmers markets, CSAs, food hubs on a per capita basis and the percentage of farm-to-school programs to rank each state on how easy it is to eat local food.
Oregon comes in at #4, behind Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire and just ahead of Massachusetts. These States also topped the 2014 Index. It’s a little surprising to see California down at ranking #36, though 12% of the country’s population resides there and it only has 9% of the country’s farmers markets and 6% of the CSAs. Texas is unfortunately ranked at the bottom of the list, for the past 3 years.
“The purpose of the Index is to stimulate efforts across the country to use more local food in homes, restaurants, schools and institutions,”said Orly Munzing, founder and executive director of Strolling of the Heifers.
This year’s Index incorporates newly available information from the Census of Agriculture, which included data on the dollar volume of direct-to-the-public food sales by farmers, including sales at farmers markets, community-supported agriculture operations (CSAs), farmstands and online sales.
“Today, less than 2% of our national population makes a living farming — the gap between consumers and the origins of the food they eat has never been more vast,” said Chuck Ross, Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, Food, and Markets.
“What the Index really reflects is the fact that the various policies at the national and state levels that encourage local food programs are having measurable results,” Munzing said. “At the Federal level, there’s the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food program which helps promote farmers markets and provides grants for farm-to-school and farm-to-institution programs.
The Components of the Index are:
- Direct-to-the-public food sales revenue at farms, including sales via farmstands, farmers markets, CSAs and online sales.
- Farmers markets, which are generally cooperative efforts to market locally produced food in a central location where consumers can select and purchase food from multiple farm enterprises.
- CSAs (consumer-supported agriculture), which are cooperative agreements between farmers and consumers; consumers buy shares in a farm’s output, and have some say in what is grown. When crops come in, they are divided among shareholders according to the volume of their shares, and the rest may be sold at market. CSA farmers get revenue in advance to cover costs of tilling, soil preparation and seed. Shareholders get fresh produce grown locally and contribute to sustainable farming practices.
- Farm-to-School programs, in which schools buy and feature locally produced, farm-fresh foods. Participating schools usually also add nutrition, culinary and food science components to their curriculum, and may experiential learning opportunities such as farm visits, school gardens and composting.
- Food hubs, which are facilities that handle the aggregation, distribution and marketing of foods from a group of farms and food producers in a region. Food hubs are often cooperatively owned, though many are private enterprises.
Strolling of the Heifers also included a list of the 10 reasons to increase the use of local foods, stressing that local foods are more sustainable, healthier, better for the environment and economically positive than foods sourced from large-scale, globalized food systems.
Strolling of the Heifers’ 10 reasons to consume local foods:
- Supports local farms: Buying local food keeps local farms healthy and creates local jobs at farms and in local food processing and distribution systems.
- Boosts local economy: Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.
- Less travel: Local food travels much less distance to market than typical fresh or processed grocery store foods, therefore using less fuel and generating fewer greenhouse gases.
- Less waste: Because of the shorter distribution chains for local foods, less food is wasted in distribution, warehousing and merchandising.
- More freshness: Local food is fresher, healthier and tastes better, because it spends less time in transit from farm to plate, and therefore loses fewer nutrients and incurs less spoilage.
- New and better flavors: When you commit to buy more local food, you’ll discover interesting new foods, tasty new ways to prepare food, and a new appreciation of the pleasure of each season’s foods.
- Good for the soil: Local food encourages diversification of local agriculture, which reduces the reliance on monoculture — single crops grown over a wide area to the detriment of soils.
- Attracts tourists: Local foods promote agritourism — farmers markets and opportunities to visit farms and local food producers help draw tourists to a region.
- Preserves open space: Buying local food helps local farms survive and thrive, keeping land from being redeveloped into suburban sprawl.
- Builds more connected communities: Local foods create more vibrant communities by connecting people with the farmers and food producers who bring them healthy local foods. As customers of CSAs and farmers markets have discovered, they are great places to meet and connect with friends as well as farmers!
Sources for the data used in the Index includes the three U.S. Department of Agriculture databases: farmers markets (updated monthly), food hubs, and the Farm-to-School Census; the USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture; the U.S. Census bureau (July 2012 estimates of population); and the California-based local food resource directory LocalHarvest, a frequently-updated database of CSAs.