In case you were starting to lose your way on this green journey, a new report has been issued to reaffirm the importance of consuming local food. So, put the shopping cart full of plastic bags and guilty convenience back where you got it, check this out and head back out to your local farmers market:
The report, “Home Grown,” released recently from Food Solutions New England, a University of New Hampshire-based initiative linking farm, food and nutrition issues, finds that the local food system in New Hampshire is a $3.3 billion industry that employs 81,000 people statewide.
The report finds strengths in the state’s local food economy – a strong retail sector and a high income population interested in buying local food – but also notes New Hampshire’s shortcomings, particularly the low profits of local farms relative to neighboring states and the U.S. average and a weak food manufacturing infrastructure. The report highlights the potential to increase the contribution of local agriculture production and food manufacturing to the gross state product by 25 percent.
“There is clearly potential for expansion of local food production in New Hampshire, and with that expansion would come benefits for New Hampshire consumers and also expanded economic opportunity for New Hampshire farmers and local food employment,” say Ross Gittell, the James R. Carter Professor of Management at UNH’s Whittemore School of Business and Economics, who co-authored the report with Ph.D. student Matt Magnusson.
“Home Grown” analyzes the local food system in four specific sectors: local agriculture, food manufacturing, food support services (such as food distributors) and food retailers (supermarkets and restaurants).
Among the additional key findings of “Home Grown”:
- New Hampshire’s local food system contributed 5.7 percent of the state’s $58 billion economy.
- In relationship to overall gross state product, New Hampshire was above the U.S. average in contribution of food retailers (3.9 percent in N.H. versus 3.3 percent U.S.) and significantly below average in the contribution of local agriculture (0.28 percent in N.H. versus 1.0 percent U.S. average).
- Just 30 percent of New Hampshire farms had positive net income; the lowest percentage in the region and significantly lower than U.S. average of 47 percent.
- New Hampshire boasts a high percentage of direct marketing (farmers markets, farm stands, pick-your-own), which accounts for 12 percent of New Hampshire food sales, compared with just 0.5 percent nationally.
In addition to establishing a target for local food production based on gross state product, “Home Grown” recommends forming a state food council to develop strategies and inform public policy based on this analysis.
“Good first steps would be to evaluate why New Hampshire farms have the lowest profitability in the region and also explore ways to expand food processing and manufacturing in the state,” Gittel said. “These steps could help strengthen the local agriculture sector, which could help promote expansion of land in farms and preservation of the New Hampshire landscape and further increase the contribution of local agriculture to the state economy.”
The complete report is available at the Food Solutions New England website, foodsolutionsne.org.