Hundreds of organic and sustainable farmers, as well as business people and others in the food industry, gathered during the Farm to Fork Summit at the McKimmon Center on N.C. State University in Raleigh, May 11-12, to try to galvanize local food production into a more stable and widely-accepted market.
"This is a summit that is part of a process that we have been going through for about a year," said Nancy Creamer, an N.C. State University horticultural science professor who is also the director for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
"We're writing a state action plan titled Building a Local Food Economy in North Carolina," she added. "As part of that we have a large advisory committee and now we've had six regional meetings across the state. We've developed teams that have gelled down into various issues and studied what barriers and opportunities there are out here."
But building a local food economy can be a daunting task. It has been shown there is a strong demand for locally produced food among consumers but getting the word out to customers and building an organized infrastructure of outlets and markets is a big job.
"On average people spend $4,010 per year on food but 5% of that, or 55 cents per day of that, is spent on local food," Creamer noted.
Still, if consumers can be convinced to spend more of that $4,010 locally, it can boost local and state economies and create a more productive environment for local small farmers.
During the Summit organizers attempted to collect all the ideas that have come out the regional meetings across the state and then organize them into a series of steps that policy makers, social activists, business people, citizens and other can take to make a local food economy become a more effective reality.
Speakers at the Summit included Dan Gerlach, president of the Golden Leaf Foundation, Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-2nd, Mary McNeil, deputy assistant secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Larry Wooten, president of the N.C. Farm Bureau Federation, Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and others.