Vermont Bests The Nation In Local Chow

NPR icon by Nancy Shute
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David Sucsy

Sure, it's a tiny state, but Vermont is powerful when it comes to shopping at farmers markets, ordering up veggies from a CSA, and developing distribution systems for local products.

That's why the Green Mountain State topped the 2013 Strolling of the Heifers Locavore Index, a ranking of all 50 states and the District of Columbia based on their commitment to local food.

The ranking was based on several factors: the number of farmers markets in a state; the number of Community Supported Agriculture projects, in which consumers buy shares in a farm's output; and the number of "food hubs," which help farmers with economies of sale by distributing products to consumers and stores.

How did one of the least populous states in the nation snag this prize?

"Vermont has really worked this hard," says Martin Langeveld. He's marketing director for Strolling of the Heifers in Brattleboro, Vt., the nonprofit that bestows the prize.

The organization promotes entrepreneurship and innovation in farms and food businesses. And you've got to love that name. The group hosts a weekend festival of farming and food that includes a cow parade.

Vermont has pursued local food production as part of its economic growth strategy, Langeveld says of the state, which is home to Ben & Jerry's ice cream and the Cabot Creamery cooperative, to name just two nationally known Vermont food producers. "And it may have kind of the right political mix and popular zeitgeist that's just interested in local foods," he says.

Oh, and the results were adjusted on a per capita basis. That helps. Langeveld says there's no home-field advantage, since the rankings are data-based.

The other top five states are Maine, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Iowa. (Note the near-monopoly in New England.)

Texas ranked dead last, along with Florida, Louisiana, Arizona and Nevada. What is it with you folks down South?

Langeveld cut them some slack, noting that "it's hard to do local foods in a megalopolis." Has anyone told Brooklyn that? "Being down on the list is not a negative," Langeveld insists. "Local food is still a smallish percentage of the total amount of food that Americans consume. But the important thing is that it's growing."

The District of Columbia, home of NPR, bounced from unranked in the inaugural 2012 survey to a respectable number 24. (This despite the fact that our new HQ lies amid urban food deserts.) Next year we're going for No. 1. Vermont, be afraid.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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