How to Eat Local

— Written By Susan Condlin and last updated by Kay Morton
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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 got to look closer to home.

All the cold, wet weather we have had this winter and then last week’s one day of warm weather has gotten me in the mood for fresh locally grown and farm-raised products. In fact some of our local greenhouses have begun pulling vine ripe tomatoes! So it won’t be long before we see the fresh produce at our local markets.

While it is still early to plant there are alternatives to getting your “fix” for locally raised food. Opening by the end of April will be a variety of Farmer Markets within in fifty miles of us. For a complete list of pick-your-own farms, roadside farm markets, and farmers markets throughout North Carolina check out theNorth Carolina Farm Fresh directory at http://www.ncfarmfresh.com/  Thedirectory is designed to help you find the freshest locally grown fruits, vegetables,  meat products, Christmas trees, ornamental plants, flowers, and herbs.

Another way to eat local is to become a member of the Sandhills Farm To Table Cooperative. Membership and subscriptions are now being accepted for this year’s spring-fall produce. Sandhills Farm To Table is not another store. It is a cooperative in which farmers and consumers are members of a community supported agriculture venture. Local farmers grow and harvest the food, deliver it to the Co-op, where is it boxed and delivered to over 21 convenient gathering sites in Moore, Lee, Cumberland, Richmond and Hoke counties, all in two days. This means you are truly getting farm fresh produce! The gathering site in Lee County is at the McSwain Center on Thursdays and the program will run for 28 weeks, April – November. By joining the Co-op and subscribing you can receive weekly, or every other week, a variety box of fresh local produce. The goal of the Co-op is to have about ten pounds of produce, at least two varieties of fruits and six of vegetables in each box. Lee County members will be able to drop by the McSwain Center beginning April 16 and pick up their box of fresh produce. This is our fourth year with the program and of all the sites, the McSwain Center is the largest. If you would like to participate membership and produce box subscriptions are being taken on the Sandhills Farm To Table website at http://www.sandhillsfarm2table.com/ or call 910-722-1623 to sign up.

If you are unable to get out to a local farm or 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. If you don’t see these food products be sure to ask for them.

Still another way to support local agriculture is to enroll in North Carolina’s 10% Farm To Fork Campaign. The 10% campaign is an effort to encourage North Carolina consumers to spend ten percent of their food dollars on foods from local sources. Through the campaign website – www.nc10percent.com  — consumers and business will pledge to spend ten percent of their food dollars locally by 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.

North Carolinians spend about $35 billion a year on food. If each person spent just ten 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 ten 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.

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 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.