How to Source Locally This Thanksgiving

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Now that it’s November, families and friends are preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday, and the menu is center stage. Who is in charge of making the dressing this year? How about the sweet potato and green bean casseroles? And most importantly, who is cooking the turkey? In addition to deciding who is cooking what dishes, have you considered sourcing your ingredients locally? Many of the crops and meats that are essential parts of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes are grown, raised, or caught (if seafood is more your thing) in our state. Did you know that NC is currently the #1 producer of sweet potatoes in the U.S.? We are also #3 for turkeys, #5 for squash, and amongst the top states in chicken and hog production based on data from the 2021 North Carolina Agricultural Statistics. There is plenty of local bounty to use! By sourcing locally this holiday, you help to support our local farmers, especially small and mid-size farms, as well as to bolster the local economy. Today we’ll highlight some ways you can buy locally this Thanksgiving and help you to see that finding local food is not as hard as you might think!

How to get your local food fix this Thanksgiving

There are many avenues for finding local food to use for your holiday cooking. One of the easiest options is to visit your nearby farmers’ markets or farm stands that operate during the fall or year-round. It might surprise you to know that grocery stores are also good options for purchasing locally, as many partner with local farmers. You can check with your nearby stores to see if they buy locally. There are also grocery cooperatives (or “co-ops”), often owned and operated by community members, which are locations where local farmers can sell their products together. Local food for ThanksgivingExamples of co-ops nearby Lee County include the Chatham Marketplace in Pittsboro and Weaver Street Market, which has several locations in the Triangle. Last but not least, food hubs are another great option for buying locally, and more are popping up across the state! Food hubs function to aggregate products from surrounding farms and to distribute them regionally, serving individuals as well as institutions like restaurants, schools, daycares, hospitals, offices, and more. Examples of food hubs located nearby include the Sandhills AGInnovation Center in Ellerbe and Farmer Foodshare in Durham.

Many of the local food resources mentioned above can be found online, and we’ll highlight a few web resources that can facilitate your search here. To find nearby farmers’ markets, farm stands, and grocery stores offering local food, you can search on the NC Farm Fresh and Got to Be NC websites, which were developed by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS). You can also use these websites to find farmers that offer community supported agriculture (CSA) programs or produce box subscriptions, if you want to source locally throughout the year. For consumers looking to purchase meat specifically, MeatSuite is an online platform that you can use to locate nearby farms selling meat, learn about their practices and breeds, and check their product availability. MeatSuite offers bulk purchasing options, such as buying a whole animal or half or quarter portions, which can help to save costs, especially if you split the order with friends and family!

Participate in our Thanksgiving Local Food Challenge

Now that you know some tips and tricks for sourcing local food near you, why not shop locally this holiday? We challenge you to source the ingredients for at least one of your Thanksgiving dishes locally this year, and the more the better! We are blessed in North Carolina with the bounty of diverse produce that can be grown here as well as the ability to raise many types of livestock, poultry, and fish. We hope you will celebrate your regional pride through your food this holiday season!

For more information and resources on finding local food near you, you can contact N.C. Cooperative Extension at the Lee County Center and ask for Meredith Favre, our Local Foods Coordinator, for more information.