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Locavore Index 2012

Click here for the 2015 Locavore Index.

Originally published May 8, 2012

The Strolling of the Heifers has announced the release of its first Locavore Index: an indicator of how states compare in their commitment to raising and eating locally grown food. In the 2012 Locavore Index, Vermont ranks first among the fifty states.

Using data exclusively from government sources (principally USDA and US Census data) dating from 2010 and 2011, the Locavore Index measures the commitment of states to locally-sourced foods by measuring the per-capita presence of Community-Supported Agricultural enterprises and Farmers Markets, each of which is an indication of both the availability and demand for locally-produced food.

CSAs are a cooperative agreement between farmers and consumers; consumer buy shares in the 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.

Farmers Markets are generally cooperative efforts to market locally produced food in a central location where consumers can select and purchase food from multiple farm enterprises.

The Index incorporates both CSAs and Farmers Markets in its per-capita, 50-state comparison of consumers’ interest in eating locally-sourced foods — also known as locavorism.

The top five states for locavorism, according to the Index, in order, are Vermont (No. 1), Iowa, Montana, Maine and Hawaii, while the bottom five are Florida (No. 50), Arizona, New Jersey, Nevada and Louisiana. See below for a full listing of the 50 states as ranked by the Locavore Index.

Locavore Index 2012 data

Roger Allbee, former Vermont Secretary of Agriculture, said, “Vermont’s position at the top of the Index shows the strength of Vermont’s commitment to innovation and entrepreneurship in local agriculture. We’ve been a leader in that area for generation.” Under Allbee’s tenure, Vermont launched the Vermont Agricultural Innovation Demonstration Center to help Vermont farmers develop new products, pioneer new business models, and find new markets.

“Locavorism is on the rise everywhere,” said 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.”

The term “locavore,” and the locavorism movement, are both comparatively recent. “Locavore” made its first appearance in 2005 and was designated the 2007 Word of the Year by the Oxford American Dictionary. As a movement, locavorism advocates a preference for local food for a variety of reasons, including:

  • 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.
  • Local food is fresher, and therefore healthier, spending less time in transit from farm to plate, and therefore losing fewer nutrients and incurring less spoilage.
  • 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.
  • Local food encourages the consumption of organic foods and reduces reliance on artificial fertilizers and pesticides.
  • Local foods create local jobs by supporting family farms and the development of local food processing and distribution systems.
  • Local foods create more vibrant communities by connecting people with the farmers and food producers who bring them healthy local foods.

In short, local foods are more sustainable, healthier, better for the environment and economically positive than foods sourced from large-scale, globalized food systems.

“The average carrot sold in a supermarket travels more than 1800 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?”

Since 2001, several years before the word “locavore” made its first appearance, Strolling of the Heifers has focused on supporting local farmers by connecting people with healthy local foods.

Based in Brattleboro, Vermont, Strolling of the Heifers is perhaps best known for its annual Strolling of the Heifers Parade, held June 2 this year, in which 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.

Just before “Stroll Weekend”, the organization is organizing the second annual Slow Living Summit, a conference focused on sustainability and community resilience, which brings together concerned citizens from many organizations and sectors to explore and network around “slower” — more sustainable — approaches to many aspects of living ranging from food and agriculture to health and spirituality. The conference takes place in Brattleboro, May 30-June 1.

The 2012 Locavore Index ranking of states (Click here for a PDF chart including the underlying data and sources used to develop the Index):

1. Vermont
2. Iowa
3. Montana
4. Maine
5. Hawaii
6. Kentucky
7. North Dakota
8. South Dakota
9. Wyoming
10. Idaho
11. West Virginia
12. Nebraska
13. New Hampshire
14. Oregon
15. Wisconsin
16. New Mexico
17. Minnesota
18. Missouri
19. Kansas
20. Oklahoma
21. Arkansas
22. Washington
23. Mississippi
24. Rhode Island
25. Michigan
26. Alabama
27. Alaska
28. Massachusetts
29. Connecticut
30. Indiana
31. Colorado
32. North Carolina
33. South Carolina
34. Virginia
35. Ohio
36. Tennessee
37. Utah
38. Pennsylvania
39. Maryland
40. Illinois
41. California
42. New York
43. Texas
44. Georgia
45. Delaware
46. Louisiana
47. Nevada
48. New Jersey
49. Arizona
50. Florida