RALEIGH, N.C. (April 21, 2010) — Building the state’s sustainable local food economy will stimulate economic development and job creation, bolster the viability of local farms and fisheries and help address diet-related health problems, reports North Carolina’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), one of the nation’s most respected centers for the study of environmentally sustainable farming systems.

According the U.S. Department of Agriculture, North Carolinians spend about $35 billion a year on food. If individuals spent just 10 percent, or $1.05 per day, of their existing food dollars on local foods, approximately $3.5 billion would be available in the local economy. And part of that $3.5 billion would flow back to farmers and food businesses. Greater spending locally can also increase the economic activity at the regional and community level, which can translate into jobs.

From Farm to Fork: A Guide to Building North Carolina’s Sustainable Local Food Economy provides goals and strategies to put North Carolina on the fast track to achieving a sustainable local and regional food system. With its diverse agricultural economy, superior educational system and adaptable workforce, North Carolina is well positioned to lead the nation.

“Y’all are red hot,” declared Gov. Beverly Perdue while addressing more than 400 participants at the CEFS’ May 2009 Farm to Fork Summit. “You are beginning to change the tide, directing the links between local agriculture, jobs and the economy. Finally,” she added, “people across the state and the country are beginning to realize you are red hot.”

The Guide identifies nine challenges North Carolina must address to succeed, and recommends a variety of actions that can be implemented at the state and local level, starting with 11 “game changers” that are actionable within two years and statewide in scope.  One major game changer—the establishment of a statewide food advisory council to engage decision makers in strategic food-systems planning and implementation—has already been accomplished. Other game changers moving forward include

  • expanding local market opportunities by developing a model farm-to-institution program (Fort Braggs’ “Feed the Forces” program) and helping to network direct-marketing initiatives statewide;
  • increasing consumer education and outreach (the 10% Campaign, funded by the Golden LEAF Foundation);
  • addressing public health and food access disparities by expanding and strengthening N.C.’s SNAP-Ed program; and
  • promoting farm-to-school programming through the development of a model farm-to-school pre-service teacher instruction program.

The Guide is the result of a yearlong “Farm to Fork” initiative spearheaded by CEFS. The initiative involved the active participation of well over 1,000 North Carolinians, and included people and organizations working in the fields of agriculture, commercial fishing, community outreach, education, faith, finance, public policy, state and local government, and youth outreach.

“North Carolina has numerous assets that make it possible to scale up our state’s response to rising consumer demand and the need for greater access to fresh, local, organic and sustainably-produced foods,” said Nancy Creamer, director of CEFS. “But moving from intent to action requires us to tackle complex issues and numerous challenges, together. On behalf of CEFS and its many partners, and for the benefit of the state as a whole, I say, let’s get started!”

Financial support for the Farm to Fork initiative came from the Golden LEAF Foundation, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, North Carolina Rural Center–Agriculture Advancement Consortium and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.