From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
As many of our readers know, we have been actively involved in efforts to promote and raise awareness of North Carolina products in grocery stores, in restaurants and at farmers markets through the Got to Be NC campaign.
This started as a grass-roots campaign five years ago and has now grown into a nationally recognized marketing campaign thanks to the continued support of the N.C. General Assembly.
In addition, thanks to grants from the GoldenLEAF Foundation and the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund Commission, we have updated and expanded the NCFarmFresh.com website, which helps consumers easily find local farms or local products in their area.
The timing of these efforts could not have been any better because we have been working to raise awareness at the same time consumer interest in locally grown food has been on a fast rise. I see it is kind of like adding lighter fluid to the grill. Things heat up much more quickly.
Selling commodities direct to consumers is a win for growers, for consumers and for North Carolina’s economy. Growers can capture a retail price for their fruit, vegetables, cheeses and meats compared to a wholesale price, and consumers get a product that often has been harvested that day. And the economy gets a boost from the success of these small businesses.
The Center for Environmental Farming Systems has recently launched a consumer campaign that marries well with our Got to Be NC efforts. The “10% Campaign,” is designed to encourage North Carolina consumers to spend 10 percent of their food dollars to support local food producers, related businesses and communities.
I think this is a great idea and I hope consumers embrace it. Setting a goal encourages people to be more aware of their food buying habits and how we can each make a difference in our community by supporting local businesses.
According to information from CEFS, North Carolinians spend about $35 billion annually on food. So directing just 10 percent of our food spending to buying local products, would add up to about $3.5 billion. That would be a significant investment in our local economy, not to mention the added trickle-down effect those dollars would achieve in a community.
Ten percent is certainly an achievable goal. I want to challenge our readers to join in this effort. You can go online at www.NC10percent.com and sign up for the program or learn more about it. As of press time, there were less than 1,000 people signed up for the “10% Campaign.” Let’s add some lighter fuel to the grill and get those numbers up!
As a point of clarification of last month’s column, I inadvertently left out the name of the restaurant where we hosted U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk and his staff for a meeting on trade issues. It was held at Marvin’s Fresh Farmhouse Restaurant in Mount Pleasant.
The restaurant is owned by Marvin Bost and features locally grown food, and the décor even includes the Got to Be NC logos. We are fortunate to have many restaurants in North Carolina, such as Marvin’s Fresh Farmhouse, that are making local products the stars on the menu. Thanks to all of them for keeping it local.