Filed under: Farmers Market, Food | Tags: Agricultural Cooperative Extension, Buy 10% Local Campaign, Farm to Fork State Action Plan, farmers markets, North Carolina
We arenow well into the deep days of our southern summer, with sticky mornings that stretch into long scorching afternoons. Thank goodness the oppressive heat does more than make us perspire on these 90-degree plus days – it means we can enjoy a sheer abundance of local food grown by area farmers. Spilling over the tables at my local farmers market are baskets of peaches, fat tomatoes, stacked melons fragrant and warm from the fields, bags of basil, chunky squash, pearls of blueberries – there is so much to choose from. What’s especially neat, is that this summer in North Carolina, more people are able to shop at farmers markets than ever before. New markets are sprouting up all over the state, some even in unconventional places like colleges and hospitals. I know this because I’ve been working to compile an updated list of farmers markets in North Carolina to help inform our work for the farmers market geolocator project. Though there are many lists of farmers markets out there, much of the information is either outdated or missing the new markets that are in their first or second season.
I’m conducting my search by county, so I figured my best bet would be to call Agricultural Cooperative Extension offices in each county to ask about farmers markets in their area. The agents who pick up the phone are always helpful, and provide me with the information or direct me to someone else that can. For this I thank them, as sometimes it can get to be a wild goose chase. (Before I started calling Extension agents, I wasted time spending half an hour trying to track down one market that I was tipped off about from a website, only to finally find out that it had disbanded six years ago!)
As North Carolina has 100 counties, there will be a lot of calls, and it’s a project I will chip away at bit by bit. But what I find amazing is that from 1936, each and every county, from Alamance to Yancey, has had their own Agricultural Cooperative Extension office. An amazing system and a huge resource for our farmers, NC Cooperative Extension was formally founded in 1914. It’s interesting to read about their history through World Wars I and II, The Civil Rights Movement and how their efforts and focus has changed through the years.
As I went to various counties’ Cooperative Extension web pages, I was excited to see the new, emerging effort for NC Extension – support of the local foods movement. Many of the Extension sites had posted information about the Buy 10% Local Campaign, an initiative that’s being led by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and that resulted from the priorities identified in the Farm to Fork State Action Plan. The intent of the 10% campaign is to encourage consumers to commit 10% of their existing food dollars to support local food producers. According to the 10% campaign website, “Cooperative Extension will designate regional directors and local food coordinators in all 100 counties to advance the 10% Campaign. These on-the-ground experts will be joined by other community leaders, farmers, businesses, parents, teachers and students, many of who are already working to build the state’s sustainable local food economy, from farm to fork.”
I applaud Cooperative Extension for taking on this initiative; agents are often already over stretched with work and underfunded so I thank them for being stewards for this extremely important state-wide pledge. This collaborative effort among all 100 counties demonstrates North Carolina’s unity to support our local farmers. And you can participate too! Visit the 10% website and you can pledge to buy 10% of your food locally, either for yourself, your family or your business.
Be sure to keep reading this blog, as I’ll continue to chip away at my compilation of farmers markets and contact all 100 North Carolina counties to make sure that none are missed. I look forward to sharing the entire list with you.