Posts filed under ‘Sustainable Farming’

Save our farms from fiscal cliff

farmbillUS Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) proposed a fiscal package last week that would correct the devastating cuts made to local food and organic agriculture in the “fiscal cliff” deal passed by Congress last month.

The proposal would end direct payments for subsidies and restore the programs for renewable energy, rural small businesses, value-added agriculture, new and beginning farmers, conservation, specialty crops, organic farming, minority farmers, and local food producers that were left out of the farm bill extension portion of the fiscal cliff deal. The cost of those programs combined paled in comparison to the $5 billion price attached to the direct payment program. The Reid proposal would right that wrong and it would also provide immediate funding for livestock disaster assistance, which was also left out when the farm bill was thrown over the cliff earlier.

The Reid proposal would cut defense spending and net farm bill spending by $27.5 billion each over the next decade. The proposal saves the federal government $31 billion in direct commodity production subsidies, while reinvesting $3.5 million to pay for a full farm bill extension, including the programs not included in the fiscal cliff extension.

One of the programs not included in the fiscal cliff farm bill extension provided cost share funds to growers to become certified organic. That program distributed almost $60,000 to NC growers in 2012. Another program not included in the extension provided funding for an organic grain-breeding program at NC State University. This program provided badly needed support to the growing NC organic grain industry through research on organic crop production and pest management.

“We applaud Sen. Reid for taking this step to restore federal support for local food and organic agriculture,” said Roland McReynolds, executive director of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association. “These small, targeted investments help small and medium-scale farms and businesses provide jobs and healthy food for their communities.”

February 19, 2013 at 10:06 pm Leave a comment

Buying local is only the first step

Check out this TEDx talk by Stacy Mitchell, senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. She says buying local is a great idea, but it’s only the first step in changing the world.  We know that small sustainable farms produce more than twice as much food per acre as big farms, with far less environmental impact.  But Walmart continues to capture one in four food dollars in America — and  half the market in some three dozen metro areas — not because its food is better (clearly, it’s not), but because it can use its giant market power to influence politics, and the business and tax policies affecting food. It will take collective action by citizens demanding new policies — including a wholly new Farm Bill — to reform our economy for the better. That’s an audacious goal, one worth working toward, while we continue to build a sustainable foodshed for our community.

Here are some excerpts from Stacy’s talk:

“The primary and often exclusive way we think about our agency in the world now is as consumers. But as consumers we’re very weak. We’re operating as lone individuals, making a series of small decisions, and the most we can do is pick between the options that are presented to us….we’re hoping that someday enough of us will have enough information about all the issues and all the choices in the marketplace, and we’ll have access to all the right alternatives, and all or most of us will be able to make the right decisions all or most of the time. But while we’re trying to line up all of these millions of small decisions in the right direction, we are swimming upstream against a powerful down current of public policies that are taking our economy in exactly the opposite direction.

“What we really need to do is change the underlying structures that create the choices in the first place….by acting collectively as citizens…

“We could begin by turning the farm bill on its head. Instead of giving the most money to the biggest farmers feeding the fast-food pipeline, why not give the most money to local farms, feeding their neighbors?…

“The answers are there, and the public support is largely there. The question we have to grapple with is, how do we begin to see our trips to the farmers’ market and to the local bookstore not as the answer, but as the first step? How do we transform this remarkable consumer trend into something more? How do we make it a political movement?”

February 17, 2013 at 4:44 pm 1 comment

Eat, drink, fund the foodshed


UPDATE: Supper tickets to this are sold out, but you can still attend, drink some brew and make a $10 donation to support the cause.

Friends, this is a no brainer. I love eating seasonal food raised on local farms. Especially when it’s served in a local eatery. I’ve been  dying for a quench of that new Cackalacky Ginger Pale Ale at FullSteam in Durham. And who wouldn’t want to chip in to support new community-based funds for newbie local farms and food enterprises, through  great local orgs like Slow Money NC, the Abundance Foundation and Carolina Farm Stewardship Association?

Looks like I’ll get to do all of this and more by plunking down $15 at FullSteam Brewery, Jan. 27 at 7 pm.  A little extra for the brew. What a deal, all part of a new dinner series called Funds to Farms.  And you can join in the fun. Here’s how it works.

The first Funds to Farms event will be a buffet style, sit-down meal featuring soup (veggie & meat) donated by Vin Rouge Bistro. Attendees will have the first half hour to get their food and drinks and make it to a table.Bon appetit.

Then, five local beginning farmers and food entrepreneurs will each pitch a project for which they need our funding, i.e. the dough-re-mi we gave at the door, and some of the brew proceeds, too.  After all of the presentations, attendees (that’s us) will vote on which project we would like to fund. The winner gets the proceeds from the evening and promises to attend the next Funds to Farms event to give a progress report.

Tickets are available online and at FullSteam on the day of the event.

January 9, 2013 at 10:11 pm 2 comments

“Dirt to shirt” — a home-grown organic cotton company

Eric HenryEric Henry, president of TS Designs, produces tee-shirts made with cotton grown organically right here in North Carolina. Eric is an entrepreneur with a social conscience – he supports several local farm, food and energy initiatives, always thinking and acting creatively about how to make a more sustainable community. This interview is reprinted from a great guide called,  “How to Advocate Locally to Support Sustainable Food & Farms: A Brief How-To Manual,” available free from Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA), another mover and shaker in our foodshed.  Plenty of information and inspiration here. Thanks, Eric and CFSA.

Eric Henry is well known in North Carolina for his dedication to sustainability. In 2009, he won the Sustainable Champion Award from Sustainable North Carolina. He adheres to the  triple bottom line business philosophy (people, planet, profits). His apparel company, TS Designs, even has its own organic farm.

Eric also founded the Burlington Biodiesel Co-op, and runs his own car on biodiesel or vegetable oil. He devotes a lot of time to furthering the sustainable agriculture agenda in his county: He serves on various community organizations and local government boards, as well as on the Board of Directors for Company Shops Market, a co-op grocery in Alamance. Eric is a true champion for system-wide change towards sustainability.

CFSA: How did you become knowledgeable about sustainable agriculture so that you could be an effective advocate?

Eric: Through my apparel business I learned about the importance of a local and transparent supply chain. This made me want to learn more about sustainability and local agriculture. I began to educate myself on sustainable issues through research and by connecting myself to people of the same mindset. I am a member of Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and attend their annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference; working with them has proven to be a great way to stay up to date on sustainable agriculture issues. I also regularly talk to sustainable farmers whom I know.

CFSA: How did you find out who held the power in Alamance, so that you could determine how to make changes in your local food system?

Eric: I have lived in Alamance County for over 50 years and I’m involved in a lot of civic groups ranging from Elon University to the Chamber of Commerce. I also met with the County Manager and other members of local government as a way to gauge who in county government were sympathetic to sustainable agriculture. I go to lots of local community meetings to keep up with what is going on.

CFSA: How did you prioritize the projects that you have undertaken?

Eric: Alamance already had a farmland protection plan and a good group of organic farmers. We were ready to go to the next level. I personally put in a lot of time working on getting Company Shops Market off the ground.

I wanted to help to build a local living community and I thought that linking local farmers to local consumers via a retail store was ambitious, but doable. Another project that I took on was creating a large organic garden at TS Designs. This created a way for me to share sustainable agricultural practices with customers of our shirts and healthy eating information with our employees.

CFSA: How did you negotiate with those in power to affect the changes that you wanted to see happen around sustainable agriculture in Alamance?

Eric: When we were organizing the Company Shops Market we had to do a lot of negotiating with local government and others as we worked to locate the shop in downtown Burlington. I had to convince officials that this was something that was going to be good for the downtown area and would be good for local businesses. We had to be forceful in our negotiations and eventually convinced decision-makers that this would be great for local business, farmers and consumers.

One thing we did was invite in another county manager, one who is sympathetic to local food, and introduce him to our manager. That helped build trust. Also we invited Michael Shuman, a national economic development consultant, to talk with local folks about local food economies.

CFSA: Looking back, can you talk about some successes and failures, as well as reflect on anything that you may have done differently in your efforts to promote sustainable agriculture?

Eric: The biggest success was establishing Company Shops Market and creating a place that connects citizens to local foods. Our challenge is still that sustainable, local agriculture is a very small part of our local food system. We need to do a better job of selling local food as economic development and job creation. We need more allies and to continue to educate the broader community about this goal.

December 19, 2012 at 10:11 pm 1 comment

Bill Dow, the food doctor

2010 photo by Harry Lynch/News and Observer

2010 photo by Harry Lynch/News and Observer

This is excerpted from Andrea Weigl’s fine feature in the News and Observer, which captures the many facets of Bill Dow’s lasting contributions to our community and many others.  Bill, 67, died earlier this week from unknown causes. A memorial service will be held Dec. 15 at 11 am at the Spring Friends Meeting house in Snow Camp.

Anyone who spends time this weekend shopping at one of the about 30 farmers markets across the Triangle can thank Bill Dow.

The Chatham County organic farmer and former physician helped start the Carrboro Farmers’ Market, the area’s oldest farmer-run market. He also was a leader in the Triangle’s local food movement.

Before the Carrboro Farmers’ Market started in 1978, few farmers grew produce to sell directly to consumers, restaurants didn’t list farms on their menus, and “locavore” was not part of the lexicon. Carrboro’s wildly popular farmers market could be considered the genesis of the Triangle’s eat-local scene, spawning dozens of farmer- and community-run markets from downtown Raleigh to Saxapahaw.

Dow was remembered this week by friends as a quiet, thoughtful man who lived by his convictions. Most of them knew him as a physician who became the state’s first certified organic farmer, believing he could do more good growing vegetables than dispensing medicines.

They may not have known that he had spent several years helping set up health clinics in eastern Tennessee. Or that his community organizing in those rural areas led him to help start farmers markets from Georgia to Arkansas. Or that he was involved in the effort to expand solar power in Chatham County, encouraging people to build solar-powered greenhouses and water heaters. Or that he was the first small organic farmer in the region to put 22 acres of his 30-acre farm under a conservation easement in perpetuity.

“He did so much,” said Daryl Walker, his partner, who had been with Dow for a decade. “He talked so little about it,” she said.

Read the whole story here.

December 8, 2012 at 8:13 am 1 comment

Rest in peace, Bill Dow

I learned today of the passing of Bill Dow, who had a giant influence on our amazing foodshed, and on so many farmers, chefs and food activists in and beyond our region. In his honor, we are re-publishing a post I wrote about him in April 2011 when he decided to lease small plots of his farm to the next generation. He left us way too soon, but his example has forever transformed our farming landscape. — Dee Reid

Photos by Katherine Vance

The Piedmont is paradise for small-scale farmers. We have an outstanding sustainable agricultural extension agent and a model community college program that trains and supports future farmers who want to use the best organic practices. Add to that dozens of farmer’s markets and CSA’s, several natural foods groceries, plenty of locavore restaurants, and a growing market of savvy consumers hungry for fresh local food.  The region also boasts a sustainable meat processor and soon will open a “value added” center where farmers can process and package jams, jellies, baked goods, etc. from their farm goods.

No wonder folks who want to be sustainable farmers are flocking here from all over the country. But there’s one problem — the price of  land near good markets has become too steep for many who are just getting started.

Bill Dow, one of the most experienced and respected small-scale farmers and advocates in the region, has an innovative solution.  Three decades after he helped launch the Carrboro Farmer’s Market and became North Carolina’s first certified organic farmer, Bill is ready to lease out parcels of his expertly cultivated land one year at a time to prospective farmers who can’t afford to buy their own place yet.

In exchange for a modest monthly fee, the “Growers of Ayrshire Farm” will have access to terraced plots that are ready to grow, crops that are tested, markets and relationships that are well established, and mentoring from a seasoned pro.

It’s a darn good deal for anyone trying to get started with very little risk or investment — a chance to develop a viable enterprise at one of the best farms in the area, while learning firsthand from a pioneering leader who has mentored countless new farmers and knows what it takes to succeed.

Ayrshire Farm is located on a scenic rural road in the middle of Chatham county, six miles west of Pittsboro and Central Carolina Community College’s Sustainable Agriculture Program, 20 miles south of Chapel Hill  and the famed Carrboro Farmer’s Market, and 40 miles west of Raleigh and more markets.

To learn more about Bill and Ayrshire Farm check out this  video.

December 5, 2012 at 8:50 pm Leave a comment

Pittsboro Pepper Fest Oct. 14

And don’t forget to order your Pepper Fest Farm-to-Tee Shirt, made from home-grown, organic NC cotton.

It’s that time again, boys and girls. The Fifth Annual Pittsboro Pepper Festival, set for Sunday Oct. 14  from 3 to 5 pm at Briar’s Chapel in Chatham County, ground zero for sustainably spicy farmers, chefs, brewers, musicians and artisans serving up peppery food, drinks, music and dance. Come hungry, prepared to sample platesand beverages from oodles of local farms and restaurants, and Farmer Doug’s Pittsboro peppers.  Brought to you by Abundance Foundation in Pbo. Read all about it and get your tickets NOW.

October 1, 2012 at 7:31 pm Leave a comment

Carolina sprouts campus CSA

Karla Capacetti of Sprout partner Coon Rock Farm shows a UNC student how to cook fresh produce.

Starting October 4, Carolina students, faculty and staff can order a weekly bag of locally grown food,  pick it up on campus AND support good causes all over the globe.  Sprout, a campus CSA (community supported agriculture) project, was developed by Nourish UNC, a student movement for sustainable development and member of the Campus Y.

Sprout partners with Coon Rock Farm, a local, sustainable enterprise, to provide fresh, seasonal produce for the campus CSA. The venture supports the local economy and food system while making healthy food accessible to the campus community. All proceeds from Sprout go to grassroots community development projects around the world.

Sprout members receive a canvas bag of produce each week for eight weeks, starting Oct. 4. The bags will be available for pick up at the Campus Y. Customers will receive a variety of produce each week, depending on the harvest calendar. For the fall, a wide variety of vegetables and greens includes eggplant, okra, zucchini, sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, baby turnips, salad greens (arugula, mesclun, etc.) and cooking greens (bok choy, kale, etc.). Additionally, this semester Sprout will take pre-orders of Coon Rock eggs, meat products (pasture-raised chicken, pork roast, bacon, sausage, steak) and honey.

A season of Sprout produce deliveries costs $80 ($10 per week). A suite bundle that is twice the single order alongside a side order of produce not in the regular bundle costs $224.

Find out more.

September 26, 2012 at 8:43 pm Leave a comment

Urban farm/market sprouting in shipping containers

It’s too early to tell if Ben Greene is a genius or a dreamer, or maybe a little of both. We’re betting on him, though, because he’s thinking “inside the box” and that alone is just plain refreshing.  In this case the box is a shipping container with some greenhouse components. The mission is to bring sustainable food production to a convenient location in the city where food can be bought on the spot while it’s still growing. It’s called The Farmery.

Ben’s dream is to launch an urban greenhouse/ farmer’s market inside four 40-foot shipping containers in Raleigh. He says they will grow Shitake mushrooms, micro-greens, strawberries, Tilapia and more inside the contraption, and you’ll be invited in to pick your own. Food will grow in a greenhouse structure on the upper level; he’ll ring you up downstairs. It doesn’t get any fresher than that. The whole thing is about 55′ x 55′, which makes it easy to tuck into an urban space. He’ll supplement what he grows with local goods from local farmers.

Where did he get this  brainstorm? He wrote it up for his master’s thesis in industrial design from N.C. State University, one of the best design schools in the country. So maybe he IS a genius.

Check out the video.

Why the Farmery?

“We’ve recognized how difficult it is for supermarkets to offer locally grown produce, primarily because of the inconsistent supply,” Ben says. “When the grocers do make attempts to sell locally grown produce, they have nothing more than a sign to differentiate the locally grown produce from the conventional, nationally grown produce located next to it.”

The Farmery offers a new way to shop for food where the story of the farmers and their food is experienced throughout the shopping experience itself.

“The entire structure of the Farmery is used to grow food, so customers can be surrounded by the sights, smells, and sounds of their food growing as they are making their purchase decisions,” Ben says. “This helps customers understand and appreciate the added value of small-scale, artisanal farming.”

After testing this container for a year, Ben proved that his concepts worked and he began looking for additional funding sources. In 2011, Tyler Nethers moved to Raleigh to help Ben. Together they built a more refined second prototype in Raleigh. They are now seeking funding on to construct the third prototype. After the third prototype is built, they will begin construction on the initial Farmery.

Their story

Ben, 29, grew up on a farm in Polk County, North Carolina, where his interest in food and nature’s system began. He ended up pursuing Sculpture at Clemson where he developed a thirst for original ideas. His college career was interrupted by a deployment to Iraq where he served as a combat engineer as part of the invasion force in 2003. He resumed college after his deployment and went to North Carolina State University’s industrial design program.

While Ben was at NC State, his grandfather began trying to sell homegrown produce to local restaurants and markets. Ben saw the frustration that his grandfather experienced and decided to look for solutions that would make producing food on a small scale profitable. He got the idea for the Farmery, he says, from reading shipping container architecture books and reading articles about ideas in vertical farming.

Tyler, 29, from Indiana, has always had an interest in natural systems and looks for opportunities to pursue these interests wherever he can. He majored in sustainable development and managed the campus greenhouse at Appalachian State University, graduating in 2005. After a few years designing biological systems for commercial developments, he took a job in Hawaii growing endangered species plants. He learned about the Farmery after a web search and after a couple of visits to Ben’s prototypes, he decided to move to Raleigh and join the team.

Why shipping containers?

Shipping containers dramatically lower the cost and difficulties of construction. “They also make the structure easily scalable and allow us to prototype the entire system and then just place the containers when the system is refined,” Ben says.

If Ben and Tyler can attract enough funding via Kickstarter and other sources, he hopes to begin construction in 2013. “We currently have about a third of what we need,” Ben says. You can help by donating through Kickstarter here:

September 24, 2012 at 9:05 pm Leave a comment

Support CSAs for hungry families

Kids help sort food at the Carrboro market

One in four children in North Carolina do not have enough food to eat.  Now you can help address this crisis AND support local farmers at the same time, by participating in a new challenge by Farmer Foodshare, the innovative nonprofit dedicated to making fresh local food more accessible.

There are a couple of ways to help, by visiting the Farmer Foodshare station at one of the Farmer’s Markets listed below.  As part of a brand-new initiative you can make a cash donation to support a local farm CSA share for a hungry family (you can even suggest which farm to use).  As always, you also can make a cash donation to support a local food bank or hunger organization, or donate part of your farmer’s market purchase to be distributed by a local food organization. In any case, your donations will be augmented by food donations from farmers and then collected at market by local hunger relief agency partners.

“Just in our region of the state, 180,000 kids don’t have enough food,” said Jonathan Bloom, a station manager with Farmer Foodshare. “Even sadder, North Carolina’s hunger rate for children under 5 is the worst in the nation. And an even larger number of young people don’t get enough nutritious, fresh food. The Farmer Foodshare Challenge aims to change that.”

Food pantries are extremely important to the services network. But, sometimes more targeted help is needed.  At-risk children and families may not be able to access food pantries due to scheduling challenges. Through the new CSA challenge,  Farmer Foodshare will purchase as many local CSA shares as possible to get nutritious, local food to hungry kids and their families, providing another option for partner agencies to better serve their clients.

CSA’s range in price from $300 to $500 for several months of delicious fresh food. CSA’s help farmers because they allow a farmer to plan what to grow and to be assured of income in response to seeds and other upfront growing costs. Donors can provide all or part of a CSA, and can earmark a donation for a particular farm or agency.

Participating Farmer’s Markets

Carrboro Farmers’ Market (

Chapel Hill Farmers’ Market (

Chatham Mills Farmers’ Market in Pittsboro (

Raleigh Downtown Farmers Market (

Durham Farmers Market (

Eno River Farmers Market (

Fearrington Farmers’ Market (

Hillsborough Farmers’ Market (

Southern Village Farmers Market (

Western Wake Farmers’ Market (

Many thanks to Farmer Foodshare founder Margaret Gifford and the volunteers and donors who help out every week.

September 16, 2012 at 2:56 pm Leave a comment

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