The Stokes News – Local Food Movement Continues to Explode
by Leslie Bray Brewer- Contributing writer
A nationwide movement to “get back to basics and eat local food” is flourishing in Stokes County. There are more and more options for residents to procure such food — either at local farmers markets or through home delivery systems.
For those who prefer to tangibly pick out their food, the county offers three official farmers markets. For those who would rather have local food brought to their doorstep, a grassroots company that does just that is expanding its services by way of a merger. Carolina Grown, a North Carolina company that currently serves eastern N.C. and the Triangle area, recently announced that they are merging with Piedmont Local Food (PLF), which serves Rockingham and surrounding counties, including Stokes, Surry, Yadkin, Caswell, Forsyth and Guilford.
“There continues to be a strong public interest in having a direct one-on-one relationship with those who produce our food,” explains Randy Fulk, Stokes County agricultural extension agent. “It is driven in no small part by a desire to understand how that food is produced, what materials have been applied to it, how far it has travelled to reach our dinner plates and a desire to see our food dollars stay in our local communities.”
Many Stokes County folks are indeed keeping those food dollars local by visiting the county’s farmers markets:
• King Farmers Market at the YMCA; 105 Moore Road, King; Wednesdays, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; May 1-Oct. 31; Harvey Moser, president
• Stokes County Farmers Market at the American Legion; 446 South Main St., King; Wednesdays and Saturdays, 9 a.m.–12 p.m.; May 1-Oct. 31; Charles Bottoms, president
• Stokes Future Farmer Market at Pioneer Community Hospital of Stokes; 1570 Highway 8 and 89 North, Danbury; Fridays, 2–4 p.m.; May 10-indefinitely; Ronda Jones, president
“Traffic has been brisk at all markets, as is often the case when the markets first open,” Fulk says.
He adds that all of these markets are currently exploring ways to increase traffic. For example, the King Farmers Market at the YMCA and the Stokes County Farmers Market at the American Legion are considering adding live entertainment.
Also, the three markets have branched out to offer more than just food. Shoppers can often find such non-food items as doggie gift bags, soaps, herbs and potted plants. Occasionally the markets feature guest vendors for added variety, such as the Intrepid Sharpener (knife and scissor sharpening services).
“Farmers markets will continue to play a key role in the local food movement mix,” Fulk predicts. “My hopes for all markets are that they will continue to provide increased opportunity for local farmers to sell high-quality products to an ever increasingly health-conscious buying public.”
Fulk notes that there are a few other produce markets in Stokes that may or may not stock items that are locally grown. Also, a few Stokes County farms seasonally offer berries and other fruit crops.
Those who don’t prefer to go out and shop may utilize companies such as the soon-to-be-expanded Carolina Grown. Once its merger with PLF is complete, Carolina Grown will feature an even broader selection in its online product-ordering systems. The food will be delivered weekly and will include more than 400 products in over 30 categories.
Current customers of PLF will simply become customers under the Carolina Grown umbrella. Company officials say that through the merger, Piedmont farmers will have an even wider customer base for their locally grown foods.
“Carolina Grown’s mission is to be the freshest market on wheels, delivering the highest quality local farm, producer and specialty products to our members’ doorsteps every week,” said Joe Allen, president of Carolina Grown. “This merger is a fantastic way to bring together two like-minded organizations to serve our customers and support our farmers. We are thrilled to welcome the new Triad farmers and customers into the Carolina Grown family.”
Alan Wood, Stokes County Economic Development director and chairman of the Rockingham County Local Food Coalition, echoes Allen: “Our focus is on bringing fresh local food to the region. We want our farmers to earn a living wage, and we want local families to have access to food grown by their friends and neighbors. Our Board of Directors believes this merger provides the best opportunity to continue our efforts to make this a reality.”
The roots of Carolina Grown reach back to two NC families who desired to provide healthy, local, fresh, delicious foods to the community. The company claims to work with humane, high-quality farmers and producers to bring that food to customers’ doorsteps.
Fulk believes that the mechanisms used by farmers markets and local food companies to meet their goal of putting local foods conveniently into local consumers’ hands is the final piece in the local food puzzle.
“It has taken decades to build the industrial, centralized food system currently in place,” he explains. “Deconstructing that in a way that benefits farmers and consumers will take time and will certainly have its growing pains (no pun intended). Issues of availability and convenience for consumers will be tantamount to continued success.”
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