The Year: 2060. The location: New England. The menu: At least 50 percent local food.
This isn’t the setting for a movie. It’s the vision for the cluster of states known as New England. By 2060, states including Connecticut, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire and Massachusetts could be sourcing half of their food from within the region.
“Advocates for local food and agriculture believe the region should be known for its sustainable food system as well—and that New Englanders fill their tables mostly from the bounty of its fields and waters,” reports Steve Holt for TakePart.
To make this dream a reality for New England, several environmental and agriculture organizations including Conservation Law Foundation, American Farmland Trust, and the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Working Group have issued a report, "New England Food Policy: Building a Sustainable Food System". The report aims to help build a regional food system that “would allow more than half of all food purchased in New England to come from within the region,” Holt explains. “According to the report, New England produces half the dairy products it consumes, less than 40 percent of the region’s vegetables, 10 percent of the fruit, and 1 percent of the meat.”
Having historically been an agricultural region, New England still retains the capacity to return to its agrarian roots. “It helps that New England has the nation's best state for local foods,” says Holt. “Each year, Vermont's Strolling the Heifers ranks the states according to their commitment to locally sourced foods by measuring the per-capita presence of farm-to-consumer programs such as community supported agriculture and farmers markets. Last year, Vermont topped the list, with more than 42 farmers markets or CSAs per 100,000 people. The other five New England states all cracked the top 15 of Strolling's index.”
The report identifies opportunities in the region’s land; food production; food safety, processing, aggregation, and distribution; markets; and waste streams. After losing 300,000 acres of farmland and 1 million acres of forestland in the last thirty years, beginning farmers are facing large hurdles, mainly the cost of buying farmland in the first place. At $7,000 per acre, farmland in New England is more than double that of the national average. But with global warming putting pressure on our nation’s food supply in a number of ways, strong local food systems are going to need to thrive all across the country, not just in New England.
But, America as we know it did start in New England. Maybe the America we’re going to become will start there too.
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Image: Bre LaRow