A Vermont-based advocacy group called Strolling of the Heifers (think "Running of the Bulls") has once again compiled its Locavore Index, which ranks states' commitment and access to local foods. Once again, Vermont leads the pack with Maine in second place, New Hampshire third. All six New England states rank in the top twenty.
The group pulls its information from the USDA, the Census Bureau, and LocalHarvest.com:
The index is based on 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.
Statistics are still inexcusably hard to gather, though, according to the group. "We need to do a better job of measuring" local food consumption, founder and executive director Orly Munzing stressed, "if we all agree that growing, buying and eating local foods is good."
To complement the list, Heifers released a list of the top ten reasons to focus on local foods, including strengthening the local economy and increasing tourism, points that are near and dear to the hearts of most Mainers:
2. Boosts local economy: Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.
8. Attracts tourists: Local foods promote agritourism - farmers markets and opportunities to visit farms and local food producers help draw tourists to a region.
CNN covers the trend as well, placing Portland on its list of seven up-and-coming foodie destinations, which includes cities that "are seeing a growing interest in local food boost the economy—and produc[ing] some seriously tasty eats."
Five Fifty-Five, Hugo's, and Piccolo are highlighted among the "nearly 600 restaurants in the city of 66,000" for their specialization in "fresh, local fare," and Joe Appel of local grocer Rosemont Market explains that "people choose local because it's healthy and supports the local economy."