Did you know that on average, food travels 1,500 miles from farm to consumer in the United States?
This industrial approach to food consumption results in more fossil fuels expended, a higher carbon footprint, less fresh, natural and organic food consumption and little economic support for small family farms.
What if we consumed much more of our food that was grown near where we live? That local approach to food consumption would save energy, support local family farms, improve the quality of the foods we eat and help and grow local economies—a much better scenario, wouldn’t you agree?
Strolling of the Heifers, an organization founded in 2001—works to sustain family farms by connecting people with healthy local food and food systems. Its signature event is the annual Strolling of the Heifers Weekend, which draws over 50,000 people to Brattleboro, Vermont in June each year. What began as a small-town agricultural parade has grown into an important year-round endeavor. Our work encourages entrepreneurship and innovation at farm and food businesses, connects people and organizations around sustainable living and promotes the value of local food systems.
One of the ways they do this is through their annual Locavore Index, a state-by-state ranking of commitment to local foods. Their intentions with the Index is to strengthen local farms and food systems by encouraging efforts across the country to increase the use of local foods in homes, restaurants, schools and institutions.
The 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.
Here are the top ten reasons to consume local foods:
1. Support local farms: Buying local food keeps local farms healthy and creates local jobs at farms and in local food processing and distribution systems.
2. Boost local economy: Food dollars spent at local farms and food producers stay in the local economy, creating more jobs at other local businesses.
3. Less travel: 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.
4. Less waste: Because of the shorter distribution chains for local foods, less food is wasted in distribution, warehousing and merchandising.
5. More freshness: Because it spends less time in transit from farm to plate, local food loses fewer nutrients and incurs less spoilage. Therefore, it is fresher, healthier and tastes better.
6. New tastes: A commitment to buy local encourages people to discover new fruits and vegetables, new ways to prepare food, and promotes a better appreciation of the pleasure of each season’s foods.
7. Improved soil: 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.
8. Attract tourists: Local foods promote agritourism. Farmer’s markets and farm stays, and opportunities to visit farms and local food producers help draw tourists to a region.
9. Preserve open space: Buying local food helps local farms survive and thrive, keeping land from being redeveloped into suburban sprawl.
10. Build more connected communities: Local foods create more vibrant communities by connecting people with the farmers and food producers who bring them healthy local foods. As customers of CSAs and farmers markets have discovered, they are great places to meet and connect with friends and farmers.
Applaud to the Founder and CEO of Strolling of the Heifers:
Orly Munzing is the Founder and CEO of Strolling of the Heifers, a Vermont-based local food advocacy group. Munzing has a Master’s Degree in Special Education. She worked with students, teachers and parents for 24 years as an educational consultant focusing
on assessment and relational development with youth and adult populations and the understanding of child development and family dynamics.
Drawing on this background, she gathered a group of volunteers in 2001 to help focus attention on the difficulties of small family farms in the Brattleboro region. In 2002, they organized the first annual Strolling of the Heifers, a parade and festival celebrating farmers and aiming to connect people with healthy local food. Over the years the group launched educational programs, a microloan fund, and farm internship program for youth, which are now all carried on by other organizations. Strolling of the Heifers also currently organizes the Vermont Farm/Food Business Plan Competition in collaboration with Vermont Technical College.