You have heard a lot in the news lately about eating local and supporting local agriculture. Many books, papers and studies have been release on this topic, but the bottom line is ... to consume fresh, locally grown farm raised products, you’ve got to look closer to home.
During this past summer, the Extension Center and our volunteers hosted the gathering site for the Sandhills Farm To Table (SF2T) cooperative. This 15-week program provided more than 160 participants with outstanding, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Produce boxes, weighing around 10 pounds and containing an assortment of at least eight various items, were delivered to our Center. Participants in the program came in all excited and beaming as they picked up their boxes. They could hardly wait to see what was in their box!
Several times we received, shall I say, something unusual to eat. With the help of SF2T’s online newsletter and the advise of many of the site workers, recipes were shared and in the following weeks reports were made on how good the item was when prepared. The produce boxes got us eating more fruits and vegetables and experiencing some unfamiliar items that we did not know where grown in this area. And while we heard of many home gardens washing out, everyone participating in the program sure did eat well this summer.
While the summer gardens have come to an end, we still have local farmers making a living at providing us with fresh produce. And for this reason the Sandhills Farm To Table (SF2T) Cooperative will have a fall program. We started on Sept. 12th and will run to Oct. 31st. This eight-week program promises to deliver another bounty of fresh produce. Such items as tomatoes, squashes, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, bok choy, nuts, greens, salsa, peaches, broccoli, herbs, carrots, apples, grapes, mushrooms, cabbage, radishes, garlic, just to name a few, are scheduled to be in our boxes.
Membership and subscriptions are still being accepted for fall produce boxes. Sandhills Farm To Table is not another store you need to visit, but works through pre-orders. Local farmers harvest the food early in the morning, deliver it to the Co-op, where is it boxed and delivered all in a days time. So you are truly getting farm fresh produce! By joining the Co-op and subscribing you can receive weekly, or every other week, a variety box of fresh local produce. Lee County members pick up their box of fresh local produce at the McSwain Center on Thursdays from 3-6 p.m. If you would like to participate in the fall season, the time is now for membership sign-ups and produce box subscriptions. Visit Sandhills Farm To Table’s web site at http://www.sandhillsfarm2table.com/ or call 877-940-SF2T to sign up.
If you are unable participate in the Sandhills Farm To Table Cooperative, be sure to look for the food products with the “Got to Be NC” logo when shopping at your favorite grocery stores. Lowes Food, Food Lion and Piggly Wiggly are now purchasing directly from area farmers. If you don’t see their products, be sure to ask for them.
And while you are eating good locally grown food, why not continue to show your support of local agriculture by enrolling in the 10% Farm To Fork Campaign, an effort to encourage North Carolinians to spend 10 percent of their food dollars on foods from local sources. Through the campaign website — www.nc10percent.com— consumers and business will pledge to spend 10 percent of their food dollars locally, purchasing products from area farmers and food producers. Campaign participants will receive weekly email reminders to report how much money they spent on local food. The website will show consumers how their dollars are spent on local foods grow.
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. I would like to challenge you to spend 10 percent of your existing food dollars to support North Carolina’s agriculture. By doing so 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. Consuming more fruits and vegetables has been proven to significantly reduce diet-related diseases and long-term health care expenses.
As the weather turns cooler, you may be traveling outside of the county and have the opportunity to visit some pick-your-own farms, roadside farm markets and farmers markets that are open during the fall. For a complete list of local farms, check out the North Carolina Farm Fresh directory at http://www.ncfarmfresh.com/ The directory is designed to 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 programs.
Susan Condlin is County Extension Director for North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County.