BRATTLEBORO, VT – Strolling of the Heifers is a Vermont-based organization that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation at farm and food businesses, promotes sustainable living, resilient communities, and the value of local food systems. It has released its third annual Locavore Index, a state-by-state ranking of commitment to local foods.
The 2014 Locavore Index incorporates four measures for which current data is available for all states: the number of farmers markets, the number of consumer-supported agriculture operations (CSAs), the number of food hubs — all compared on a per-capita basis — plus the percentage of each state’s school districts with active Farm-to-School programs. But more data on local foods should be gathered, Strolling of the Heifers says.
For the second year in a row, New Hampshire came in third in the nation, behind Vermont at #1 and Maine at #2. Texas came in dead last at #51 (the District of Columbia is included in the ranking).
Components of the Index
- 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 get 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.
Sources for the data used in the Index include three U.S. Department of Agriculture databases: farmers markets (updated monthly), food hubs, and the Farm-to-School Census; 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.