“From Farm to Fork: A Guide to Building North Carolina’s Sustainable Local Food Economy” has just been issued by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems. The guide provides goals and strategies that will put North Carolina on the fast track to achieving a sustainable local and regional food system. With its diverse agricultural economy, superior educational system and adaptable workforce, North Carolina is well positioned to lead the nation in this effort.
Building the state’s sustainable local food economy will stimulate economic development and job creation, bolster the viability of local farms and fisheries and help address diet-related health problems, according to CEFS, a partnership between N.C. State University, N.C. A&T State University and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. CEFS’s mission is to develop and promote food and farming systems that protect the environment, strengthen local communities and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond.
The guide is the result of a year-long “Farm to Fork” initiative spearheaded by CEFS to take an in-depth look at where and how our food is produced and processed. The initiative involved the active participation of well over 1,000 North Carolinians, and included people and organizations working in the fields of agriculture, commercial fishing, community organizing, education, faith, finance, public policy, state and local government and youth outreach.
“Y’all are red hot,” declared Gov. Beverly Perdue while addressing the more than 400 participants at the CEFS’ May 2009 Farm to Fork Summit. “You are beginning to change the tide, directing the links between local agriculture, jobs and the economy. “Finally, people across the state and the country are beginning to realize you are red hot,” Perdue said.
The guide identifies nine challenges North Carolina must address to succeed and recommends a variety of actions that can be implemented at the state and local levels, starting with 11 “game-changers” that are actionable within two years and statewide in scope. One major game changer—the establishment of a statewide food policy advisory council to engage decision makers in strategic food-systems planning and implementation—has already been accomplished. Other game changers moving forward support:
• Expanding local market opportunities by developing a model farm-to-institution program (Fort Braggs’ “Feed the Forces” program);
• Increasing consumer education and outreach (the 10% Campaign, funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation);
• Addressing public health and food access disparities by expanding and strengthening N.C.’s SNAP-ED program; and
• Promoting farm-to-school programming through the development of a model farm-to-school pre-service teacher instruction program.
According the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Carolinians spend about $35 billion a year on food. If individuals spent just 10 percent, or $1.05 per day, of their existing food dollars on local foods, approximately $3.5 billion would be available in the local economy, directly benefiting farmers and food-related businesses. Greater spending locally can also increase the economic activity at the regional and community level, which can translate into jobs.
Financial support for the Farm to Fork initiative came from the Golden LEAF Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, North Carolina Rural Center – Agriculture Advancement Consortium and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
— Natalie Hampton