By Brian Graves, Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 31, 2012 —
A new group has been formed with the focused effort to encourage the use and cultivation of locally-raised farm products as well as teaching the business models to sustain the farms that produce them.
The Tri-County Farm and Food Council had been operating on an interim basis until last Tuesday when a permanent body met at the Stanly Community College campus in Albemarle.
In September, the Stanly County Commission formally recognized by resolution the new tri-county body which will also operate in Montgomery and Anson counties.
Interim Board Chair Robin McCree spoke about the origins of the group at the meeting.
“Nancy and Rob Bryant called last year with the question as to whether Stanly Community College, along with South Piedmont and Montgomery Community College, if they would be interested in an incubator farm,” McCree said.
An incubator farming project is a land-based multi-grower program that provides training and technical assistance to aspiring and beginning farmers.
“Many discussions have been held since then, and we now have officially a farm and food council,” she said.
“We’re very excited about that. This is a very appropriate time of the year to start our food council because this is the harvest season.”
Stanly Community College President Dr. Brenda Kays will serve as the president of the newly-established council.
“The birth of this really started two years ago next month at a conference for small farmers about preserving land for small farmers in the western counties,” Nancy Bryant said.
She said many in those workshops spoke about how important it was to have an incubator farm.
“It is a place for people to not only learn how to grow produce, or fruit, or livestock, but also to learn how to write a business plan and how to become a viable, resilient, sustainable small farm business,” Bryant said.
“The reasons we need local food is for health reasons, security reasons and economic development.”
Bryant said her farm lies between the centers of Stanly and Montgomery counties, so she and her husband decided to use their farm as an incubator farm for the tri-county region.
With the help of Lori Ivey, Stanly County Cooperative Extension director, the Bryants began talking to people in the three counties and built the interest.
McCree then came on board, saying the community colleges wanted to develop a small farm curriculum at the colleges.
“There were 50 people at our first meeting last October, another meeting in December, and it was decided to go ahead,” Bryant said.
“When a facilitator came to help us in February and saw what we wanted to do, he said our vision needed to be a larger vision because what we were talking about was a farm and food council.”
She said from then on, the board has worked hard to develop a sustainable, locally-based, economically-resilient farm and food system.
“We came up with five bold steps,” Bryant said.
Those steps are: the establishment of the council, a public awareness and education campaign, agri-business training with a program at the three community colleges, processing and distribution infrastructure, and land and food waste management.
Council members heard from Teisha Wymore, North Carolina State University state coordinator of the “North Carolina 10%” campaign.
That project is helping to promote all North Carolinians to spend 10 percent of their existing food dollars on locally grown and produced foods.