As Community and Rural Development agent with Cooperative Extension, my duties cover tourism, local foods and sustainable local economy. I believe I can be most successful when the words and concepts associated with my work are fully understood. The local foods movement is gaining momentum in North Carolina, and Robeson County stands to gain so much by supporting its efforts.
Local foods are foods that are grown or produced — depending upon availability, season and climate — and are consumed in the same geographic location, which means the county or possibly the state. For example, local collards are those grown in Robeson County, whereas local shrimp are those harvested off the Carolina coast.
Oranges from Florida are more local than those from California. Eating local foods provides numerous benefits to your health as well as to the economic strength of our community.
First, local food tastes better and is better for you. Produce that travels a distance, sits on a truck or in a warehouse and loses freshness, flavor and nutrients. Local produce is picked just a day or two before you eat it so it is crisper, sweeter and more flavorful.
Also, it’s no secret that fresh, raw, whole foods are healthier than heavily processed foods, so by enjoying, say, a local peach, you’re hopefully foregoing a less healthy snack. Buying local helps support local farm families and builds communities. You’re also honoring your connection with the Earth from which nourishment comes by connecting with the seasons, the weather and the soil.
There are significant financial benefits as well. Since vitamin levels in fresh foods actually degrade over time, your money is spent more wisely on local foods that provide more nutrition. Buying local strengthens the economy by keeping your money within your community. Collectively reducing our dependence on long-distance food shipments stabilizes the local food supply.
Local farmers contribute more in taxes than they require in services, which helps keep your taxes in check. Buying local foods supports a clean environment and benefits wildlife. By buying local, you’re taking a step toward a healthier life for you, your family and your neighbors, while also preserving open spaces and our rich North Carolina heritage.
One of the best ways to purchase fresh and locally grown produce is at farmers markets. In Lumberton, there is a farmers market on Wednesday and Saturday mornings on Eighth and Elm streets and in Pembroke on Thursday mornings on Main Street and University Road.
Another way to get local food is by joining a Community-Supported Agriculture, which is service that, for a fee, provides members with a share of the harvest. They receive weekly shares of vegetables and fruit and sometimes herbs, cut flowers, honey, eggs, and meat.
Joining a Community-Supported Agriculture is an alternative socio-economic way of linking local farmers and their products with local consumers.
If you are interested in signing up for a future Community-Supported Agriculture, you may do so through our Extension Center. Neighborhood grocery stores sometimes carry local produce. If you don’t see any local produce identified as such, request your grocer to begin offering it.
Several restaurants are interested in using more local produce as well, so voice your support when dining out. Commit to spend 10 percent of your food budget on local foods by signing up with the 10 percent Campaign at www.nc10percent.com. Farmers and restaurants that register will receive a very nice welcome packet.
For information on the contents of this article, contact Tahnea Locklear, Extension Community and Rural Development agent, with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about Extension visit http://robeson.ces.ncsu.edu.