Across the United States, there has been a growing interest in local food production, which provides an alternative way to increase self-sufficiency and support greater well-being and food security at the community level. This study focused on the Northern Panhandle region of Idaho, where opportunities derived from the local food movement have emerged in several resort and college towns. This research integrated spatial analysis and modeling in a geographic information system (GIS) environment and a linear-programming (LP) optimization approach to identify, quantify, and map these potential opportunities. The obtained results show that existing local food producers are located in the urban fringe and on productive cropland. The foodshed model further suggests that Northern Idaho has enough farmland to feed its whole population within an average distance of 49 km or 31 miles. An alternative land use scenario was explored that involves removing marginal cropland with high soil erodibility from commodity cropping to improve the ecological benefits of local food production. The results of the study, including nuanced evidence of growing demand for local-food products, the existence of enough cropland capacity to meet demand, and potential environmental benefits, are quite encouraging to local food advocates in Northern Idaho and other areas and demonstrate the utility of land-based foodshed analysis.
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