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Production_milestones_model.xlsx (403.41 kB)

Regional self-reliance model of the New England food system

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posted on 2024-04-18, 16:26 authored by Christian PetersChristian Peters, Brian Donahue, Ashley McCarthy, Joshua Stoll, Laura Barley

What is it?

The “Regional self-reliance model of the New England food system” explores future scenarios of regional food self-reliance. In this model, self-reliance is defined as the ratio of production to consumption and can be expressed for individual commodities, food groups, or the overall diet. The model allows a user to define assumptions about diet composition and target self-reliance for different groups of foods. The model estimates the regional self-reliance across seven food groups (grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, protein-rich foods, fats and oils, and sweeteners) and for the overall diet. In addition, the model calculates land requirements for producing the target amounts of food from New England agriculture. These estimates are presented beside data on current land use to place the results in context.

Why was it generated?

The model was generated as part of the New England Feeding New England (NEFNE) project. The central question of NEFNE was, "What would it take for 30% of the food consumed in New England to be regionally produced by 2030?" The model addresses the agricultural production capacity of the region, while accounting for the contribution of capture fisheries and aquaculture to food production. The purpose of the model is to estimate the production capacity of the region’s land resources to evaluate the land requirements of increasing regional self-reliance in food.

How was it generated?

A team of researchers collaborated to construct the model. The model builds on prior work on regional self-reliance, the human carrying capacity of agricultural resources, and analysis of livestock feed requirements. As described below, the model estimates the land requirements of supplying a given level of self-reliance, accounting for food needs, food losses and waste, livestock feed requirements, crop yields, and land availability.

Starting from the food consumption end of the food system, the model takes input data on food intake (in servings person-1 day-1) by food group (e.g., grains) and distributes consumption across primary food commodities from that food group (e.g., corn meal, wheat flour) in the Loss-Adjusted Food Supply. Intake for each primary food commodity is then converted into the equivalent quantity of agricultural commodity (in pounds year-1) needed to supply the region with a sufficient amount of that commodity to meet the target level of self-reliance, at a given projected population size. This conversion accounts for the serving size of the commodity (in grams), losses at different stages of the food system, and processing conversions. For animal products, a further step is taken to convert the quantity of food consumed into equivalent quantities of crop biomass required to feed the requisite livestock. Land requirements for each food are determined by dividing the agricultural commodity (for plant foods) or crop biomass requirements (for animal products) by regional average yields for the appropriate crop(s).

Input data were collected from an array of secondary data sources, including, the Loss-Adjusted Food Supply, the Census of Agriculture, the New England Agricultural Bulletin, Major Land Uses, the Atlantic Coastal Cooperative Statistics Program Data Warehouse, and the NOAA Fisheries Landings data portal. Additional sources used to develop the model are cited in the workbook and reference information is provided in each worksheet. The unique contribution of the model is to organize the data in a form that permits exploration of alternative scenarios of diet, target self-reliance, and land availability for the New England region.


USDA-ARS: 8090-44000-001-000D


Data contact name

Peters, Christian

Data contact email


Ag Data Commons

Intended use

The model should be used to estimate the biophysical capacity for New England to meet its own food needs from its agricultural land, looking out to 2030. It is a tool for exploring possible futures of increased regional self-reliance. A user can validly explore scenarios with different targets for different food groups (e.g., fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy) or even subgroups of food. The user can alter assumptions about the food consumption patterns of the average New England resident or how nutritional needs might be met with different diets. The user might explore how restricting or expanding the area of available agricultural land changes the level of self-reliance that is possible.

Use limitations

The model does not consider the availability of food system infrastructure, such as livestock slaughter, food processing, or cold chains, that might be necessary to increase regional self-reliance. Nor does the model provide any information on economic returns or viability of the scenarios. This should be seen only as a tool for exploring the biophysical capacity of the region for meeting its own food needs. Furthermore, while the production from capture fisheries is included in this model as a benchmark for seafood production, the model cannot calculate alternate production scenarios for seafood. Before using the tool, please read the description of the methodology and accompanying analysis provided in Volume 2 of the New England Feeding New England final report entitled, "Estimating Production for 30% Regional Self-Reliance." Researchers who plan to use this tool as a template for conducting similar analyses in other regions should consult the publications referred to in the Related Materials section.

Temporal Extent Start Date


Temporal Extent End Date



  • notPlanned


  • Non-geospatial

Geographic location - description

New England includes the following six states of the United States of America: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.

ISO Topic Category

  • farming

National Agricultural Library Thesaurus terms

models; New England region; food groups; grains; vegetables; fruits; lipids; oils; sweeteners; land use; fisheries; aquaculture; food production; humans; carrying capacity; agricultural resources; livestock feeds; feed requirements; food loss; wastes; crop yield; food consumption; food intake; corn meal; wheat flour; food availability; population size; serving size; biomass; livestock; Census of Agriculture; statistics; databases; agricultural land; meat; infrastructure; slaughter; food processing; cold; costs and returns; viability; seafoods

OMB Bureau Code

  • 005:18 - Agricultural Research Service

OMB Program Code

  • 005:040 - National Research

ARS National Program Number

  • 216

ARIS Log Number


Pending citation

  • No

Public Access Level

  • Public