A team of industry and university leaders from North Carolina visited USDA recently to tell us about their work in building a stronger statewide local food system. Nancy Creamer of North Carolina State University, John O’Sullivan and Shorlette Ammons of North Carolina A&T State University, and Cheryl Queen of Compass Group North America are all involved in various ways in the leadership of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS).
CEFS led a collaborative effort involving over 1,000 people to develop what they call “game-changing strategies” for advancing the local food economy across the state. Their results are reported in a comprehensive guide available to the public: “From Farm to Fork: A Guide to Building North Carolina’s Sustainable Local Food Economy.” The guide provides a model for other states and municipalities to copy the local foods progress in North Carolina.
Some of these game-changers include establishing a state food policy council so that policy makers are engaged in the process, and promoting farm-to-school programming and involving youth in agriculture.
Another strategy that’s being implemented statewide is a campaign to encourage consumers to commit 10 percent of their existing food dollars to support local food producers and related businesses and communities. That would mean “$3.5 billion in local sales, triggering demand for local processing, distribution, transportation infrastructure, more farmers growing diverse products … which all translates to economic development and jobs.” Cooperative Extension’s local food coordinators and other partners provide information and assistance.
The 10% Campaign uses a continually updated web site where consumers and businesses can sign up to join the campaign, find out what’s in season locally, and watch the progress of the statewide campaign as the web site logs the number of people and businesses and the dollar value of their local purchases. Just this week they reached $2 million in sales that have been reported. We’ll be watching their progress and hope you will, too!