Thanksgiving Maps and Geography

Caitlin Dempsey


Happy Thanksgiving! 

Want to know where your Thanksgiving food comes from?  Listed here are a few endeavors to map out the geography of Thanksgiving.

Mapping: Where Does Thanksgiving Dinner Come From?

Linda Zellmer, Government Information & Data Services Librarian at Western Illinois University, has created a series of choropleth maps showing production by state of common food items found on the table at Thanksgiving for the years 1997, 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017.  

Produce (such as sweet potato, green bean, and cranberry production) is mapped by number of acres harvested and turkeys are symbolized by number of turkeys per state.  

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Zellmer brings all the items together in her posters entitled “Where Does Thanksgiving Dinner Grow?”

Also available are the GIS datasets for 2002, 2007, 2012, and 2017 in DBF, CSV or Excel format.

Visit: Thanksgiving Maps & Posters

Where Does Thanksgiving Dinner Come From?

Where did your Thanksgiving dinner come from is also the answer that Esri seeks to answer with its online mapping showing the volume of turkeys, green beans, cranberries, and sweet potatoes produced on a county level.  

Like Zellmer’s original maps, Esri’s Thanksgiving map shows the number of turkeys and the acreage of sweet potatoes, cranberries, and green beans.  The online mapping of Thanksgiving related produce and turkey is pulled from 2007 USDA data.

Where Did Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? Map from Esri with data from USDA, 2007.
Where Did Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? Map from Esri with data from USDA, 2007.

Mapping Thanksgiving

Google Maps and Google News Labs has dug into search and traffic trends to chart and map out Thanksgiving related activities such as this chart showing when traffic is highest over the Thanksgiving holiday for 25 U.S. cities.

Other data visualizations include most searched for terms on Thanksgiving. trends in food and drink searches, and the patterns of places that people visit during Thanksgiving.

Visit: Mapping Thanksgiving – Google Trends

Mapping Thanksgiving Search Terms

Back in 2009, the NY Times mapped out Thanksgiving related search terms to see what people were thinking of preparing for their Thanksgiving meals across the country.  

The analysis looked at the top search terms on and the  The top search term?  Recipes for sweet potato pie.

Visit: What’s Cooking on Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Map

Local Eating at Thanksgiving in California

KCET, a local public television station for Southern California took at look at what foods are locally produced.  The result is a map highlighting where all the local food sources from California come from that make up the cornucopia of a Thanksgiving dinner table.  

The only missing traditionally Thanksgiving food is the cranberry.  See: What’s in Season? Eat Local this Thanksgiving.

Map of locally sourced foods for the Southern California Thanksgiving table. Source: KCET.
Map of locally sourced foods for the Southern California Thanksgiving table. Source: KCET.

Geography of Thanksgiving

Some Thanksgiving geography related facts from the U.S. Census Bureau from 2011:

There are four places in the United States with “Turkey” in their name.  Turkey Creek in Louisiana had the most residents with 444.  In descending order, the remaining three locations with (population): Turkey, Texas (421), Turkey Creek, Ariz. (294), and Turkey, N.C. (292) .  There are eleven townships containing the name “Turkey”.  There are nine places and townships with “Cranberry” (or a close variation) in the name.

Minnesota was the leader in raising live turkeys with 46.5 million birds (out of 248 million for the entire United States).  99.7% of imported live turkeys are from Canada.  Wisconsin produced the most green beans (258,320 tons) of all the states.  Wisconsin was also the highest producer of cranberries (430 million pounds).  Illinois was the leader in producing pumpkins (427 million pounds).  Sweet potatoes were produced in the highest amount in North Carolina (972 million pounds).

Originally posted on November 23, 2006 and updated November 26, 2019

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.