Extension News: It’s got to be local agriculture

Mar. 06, 2013 @ 08:00 AM

Are you getting a little tired of eating store bought fruits and veggies, shipped in from all over? Has the unseasonably mild winter and the appearance of daffodils got you thinking of spring? Often with these events comes the desire to once again to start eating farm fresh and locally grown fruits and vegetables such as strawberries, tomatoes and cucumbers. And the tasty list goes on. 

North Carolinians spend about $35 billion a year on food. If each person spent just 10 percent on food locally — roughly $1.05 per day — then approximately $3.5 billion would be available in the state’s economy.

You can support our local agriculture by enrolling in North Carolina’s 10% Farm To Fork Campaign. The 10 percent campaign is an effort to encourage North Carolina consumers to spend 10 percent of their food dollars on foods from local sources. Through the campaign website — www.nc10percent.com — consumers and businesses pledge to spend 10 percent of their food dollars locally by purchasing products from area farmers and food producers. Participants will receive weekly email reminders to report how much money they spent on local foods. By pledging to the 10 percent campaign you will support our farms, food and manufacturing businesses and create jobs in addition to infusing fresh and flavorful fruits and vegetables into you diet. And, of course, consuming more fruits and vegetables has proven to significantly reduce diet-related diseases and long-term health care expenses. 

An easy way to support our local agriculture and get some really fresh, high quality produce is to become a member of the Sandhills Farm To Table Cooperative. Sandhills Farm To Table (SF2T) is not another store you need to visit. Local farmers harvest the food early in the morning, deliver it to the Co-op, where is it boxed and delivered to members at a convenient gathering site, all in a day’s time. So you are truly getting farm fresh produce!

Again this year, N.C. Cooperative Extension in Lee County is partnering with SF2T to host the program at the McSwain Extension Education and Agriculture Center. By joining the Co-op and subscribing, you can receive weekly, or every other week, a variety box of fresh local produce. Each box will have around 10 pounds of produce to include at least two varieties of fruits and six of vegetables. Members will also receive a weekly newsletter, have access to the online Artisan Market, can subscribe to a produce/bread box, be able to buy bulk produce from our growers and have your purchase delivered to the McSwain Center gathering site. Members can choose a “pay per delivery” option this year, which allows for smaller payments billed to your credit card at each delivery. 

At the end of the 2012 season, Lee County had 163 participants and we are looking to go higher this year. Membership to the 2013 Sandhills Farm To Table is now open. Sign up as a member then choose your subscription/box and delivery option (every week or every other week). To become a member, visit Sandhills Farm To Table web site at http://www.sandhillsfarm2table.com/ or call (910) 949-2142 to sign up.

As the growing season progresses, many pick-your-own farms, roadside farm markets and farmers markets are in preparation mode and will open in April. For a complete listing of these farm stands, check out the North Carolina Farm Fresh directory at http://www.ncfarmfresh.com/. The directory will help you find the freshest locally grown fruits, vegetables, meat products, Christmas trees, ornamental plants, flowers and herbs. 

Remember, if you are looking for the best tasting, healthiest and the freshest farm products ... “It’s Got to Be NC Agriculture.” So make the choice, make a difference and make it local. Be sure to call Cooperative Extension at (919) 775-5624 if you have questions about any of these program.

Susan Condlin is County Extension Director for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.