Sandhills Farm to Table

April 17, 2010 at 4:50 pm 2 comments

By Lyle Estill

Today at work I encountered a pile of neglected snail mail, including a homemade DVD with a hand-written note, the signature of which I could not decipher.

I popped it into my computer and was greeted by “A Sandhills Farm to Table Conversation,” the story behind an innovative  new cooperative of farmers and consumers in nearby Moore County, N.C.  

The video began with a farmer talking about their diversification efforts.  It moved to an organizer who talked about how they had managed to build a broad base of support-from churches to agricultural extension agents to surrounding farmer’s markets.  And it ended with a woman who is committed to slipping recipes into every box of food.

My response to the video was mixed.  As a committed maker of bad movies with my own You Tube Channel, I could relate (and as a film school drop out, I was horrified).  But as someone who has been to the Sandhills many times to talk about resilient communities I was intrigued.

I’ve met these people.  They have come to Pittsboro to tour our Eco-Industrial Park and our farms.  I’ve been down to their community centers and hotels and restaurants. We have communicated with email.  And in some strange way I felt the DVD was part of a broader correspondence.

They have gone out and built a community-wide CSA (community supported agriculture venture where consumers pay in advance for fresh food from the farm) with some 750 members.  That’s giant.  All of the CSAs that I have been involved in number less than 100.  Most are closer to 50 subscribers.  

As I watched the video I realized I was peering into raw, uncut footage of how a community figures out how to feed itself.  Forget production values.  It was the stuff of resilience.

As a newly minted cooperative, their tagline is “We Are All in This Together.”  And by that they mean they are not simply eaters who are demanding the lowest possible price for the food they consume.  Or simply growers who are trying to fetch the highest possible price for the food they produce.  Rather, they are in it together, and attempting to feed as many people as possible.

Like many communities in America the Sandhills region is a place of vanishing farmland.  As conventional agriculture recedes, and golf course communities continue their ascendancy, the Sandhills appears to be a place that has decided to figure out how to feed itself.

With area farmer’s markets enjoying less than a 1% penetration rate, these people have decided to create a community wide CSA with multiple “Gathering Points” where people can pick up their boxes of food.

And when they do, they will find some recipes included-in case the eater has forgotten what to do with a whole vegetable or fruit.

I was inspired by the video.

In a time when so many people seem either hopeless or lost, this group has rolled up its sleeves and taken direct action on how they might feed themselves.

I’m in awe.

Entry filed under: Lyle Estill, Sustainable Farming, Sustainable Food, Uncategorized. Tags: , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jan Leitschuh  |  April 17, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    Hey Lyle,

    We appreciate the good words!
    Praise from Caesar, as it were.

    And yes, it is EXACTLY about resilience.
    And we are “in it together.’

    By the way, over 830 Co-op members last count.

    This couldn’t have happened without the tremendous grassroots groundswell of support from both consumers AND farmers. Without action by those who became members, it would only have been one more unrealized Good Idea. I think there is a deep hunger out there to take back some of what has been lost – quality, connection and a greater degree of self-reliance.

    Thanks for the salute.

  • 2. Dee  |  May 15, 2010 at 10:57 am

    Y’awl are amazing. I just looked at your website again and you now apparently have 920 members ($25 fee). I understand that members are not required to be “subscribers” but it looks like you are delivering more than 500 weekly boxes of groceries (about $21/week for 17 weeks) to subscribers, and feeding some 1500 people in Moore County! I did the math, you’ve achieved success in your first season. And, according to RAFI, you are the first and only such cooperative of farmers, workers and consumers in the U.S. Bravo and please keep us posted.


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