A new index tracks the rapid growth of local food systems in the US, the Locavore Index.
The top five states for farmers markets, community-supported agriculture (CSA), farms-to-schools are: Vermont, Iowa, Montana, Maine and Hawaii, in that order.
Although locavorism is growing everywhere, the bottom five states are Florida (#50), Arizona, New Jersey, Nevada and Louisiana.
A Vermont-based group, Strolling with the Heifers, developed the index, which uses government data on per capita availability of local food sources.
Tiny Vermont, with only 622,000 people, has 99 farmers markets and 164 CSAs, in contrast to Florida, which has 18.5 million people and 146 farmers markets and 193 CSAs.
"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," says Roger Allbee, former Vermont Secretary of Agriculture.
Strolling with the Heifers points to the following reasons for the growing preference for locally produced food:
- Local food travels much less distance to market than typical fresh or processed grocery store foods, 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, wildflowers and beneficial insects.
- 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.
The term "locavore" made its first appearance in 2005 and was designated the 2007 Word of the Year by the Oxford American Dictionary.
Strolling of the Heifers organizes an annual parade with farm animals bedecked with flowers. Afterwards, the crowd follows the parade to an all-day Green Expo for food, entertainment and education. It takes place June 2.
The second annual Slow Living Summit will take place May 30-June1, where people from many organizations will explore and network around "slower" - more sustainable - approaches to living, including food, agriculture and health.