Signed in as:
Signed in as:
"Only 14% of money spent at chain retailers stays in the local economy, compared to 48% of money spent at independent businesses. Through operations, jobs and community initiatives, money spent at local businesses stays in the local economy, while 86% of money spent at chain retailers leaves the community. Therefore, shopping locally benefits more than just a store, as that money is reinvested back into the community, enriching other businesses and consumers alike." Source: https://bit.ly/3AtDwNW
What started out as an idea 5 years ago, was jump-started in 2020 partially due to the pandemic and because there was an opportunity. WNC Farm to Table began delivering local food to less than a handful of restaurants and, at times, local food banks.
This was not the original plan, but we will get to that. This detour happened because there were new opportunities for local food dining in downtown Sylva. The Wine Bar had just been renovated after new owners had taken over. They wanted to support local as much as possible. Ilda, an Italian restaurant owned by a Michelin trained chef, was in the development stages. Bear Lake Reserve's Lake Club chef was willing to use more local food options. It was a chance to prove that, if given the opportunity, local food could be viable beyond farmers markets and farm stands...
Empowering Mountain Food Systems provided 2 large coolers and the initial setup for the online platform. Lisa McBride hit the road with her coolers and a list of what the chefs were looking for.
A little over thirteen months later, projected sales goals for restaurants have been blown out of the water. From the start of the full 2021 year, wholesale sales are over $80K and more restaurants are jumping on board.
Again, just a woman, her car and a couple of coolers.
Now it's time to bring the focus back to the original plan.
Open up to the residents of Jackson County, North Carolina.
Local Food for Everyone.
The original strategy always had a non-profit aspect to it: an organization to support the ordering system project, plus focus on food insecurity issues. This structure creates a network to support farmers and producers navigate through all the public and private assistance programs that farming and food production has available.
Dreamt up because the former manager of the Jackson County Farmers Market saw that adding an extra market day didn't reach many more people, even with the lure of the newly added Double Up Food Bucks program, which extended SNAP/EBT benefits. Farmers markets are the face of local food, but they are not easily accessible by many consumers. What is simple convenience for one family is possibly life-changing to another. Many roadside stands and even some farmers markets do not accept SNAP/EBT.
At farmers markets, producers have to harvest the produce, bake the goods, take eggs, chicken, meat and take them to the market, not knowing if they will sell their foodstuffs or not. It's an unreliable way for producers to market their products which can often mean lost revenue. WNC Farm to Table allows them to presell their products, resulting in a more reliable and higher income.
As we have all seen during the pandemic and supply chain challenges, a food system dependent on shipping products can be disrupted easily. A local food system does not fully replace grocery stores, but it can provide a viable alternative, as it supports producers and strengthens the local economy as a whole.
In 2022, a completely different layer was added as WNC Farm to Table began to supply boxes of local food to the clients of Vecinos Farmworker Health Program. This project continues through the next two years, minimum.
WNC Farm to Table provides local food at below retail prices, and will continue to do this for consumers, thus stretching the food dollar for residents of Jackson County.
I am a paralegal who has seven dogs and three cats who I love dearly. I enjoy cooking, and gaming. I am proud to be a part of this board and to be assisting with its mission to provide easier access to local food. I understand the positive economic, social and environmental effects when we use local ingredients.
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