Fork to Farmer Initiative
Funding of this program has come through a Farmers Market Promotion Program Grant administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
The local food movement is transforming the agriculture and food services sector. This is particularly true in North Carolina where both the number of farms selling directly to consumers and the value of those agricultural products sold have increased (Census of Agriculture, 2012). Farm to table restaurants play a significant role in this transformation. The model of using locally sourced produce, protein, and dairy is trending in the high-end restaurant sector resulting in numerous high-profile chefs receiving notable awards and showing significant business success.
A goal of the Fork to Farmer Initiative is to generate greater public awareness of the chef-farmer collaborations and the inputs that each of them brings to the table in order to increase visits to local farms and diversify farm income by leveraging the high visibility of famous chefs with a record of supporting local small farms.
This initiative is led by a team of NC State Cooperative Extension economic development, local food, and tourism specialists. Fork to Farmer (1) makes short videos about well-known farm to table chefs and the small family farmers that supply their restaurants; and (2) develops and delivers agritourism training for these farmers to prepare them for farm visits by restaurant clientele and others.
For a more complete understanding of the Fork to Farmer video project, check out this short documentary.
A second major goal of the Fork to Farmer initiative is to generate new markets for small-scale farmers. One new market channel developed through the Fork to Farmer initiative is Vacationer-Supported Agriculture. This program connects vacationers with local food through the online pre-sale of bags filled with locally-sourced and aggregated product.
In 2020 the Vacationer-Supported Agriculture program is present in all Brunswick County beaches and also serves Surf City in Pender County and Wrightsville Beach in New Hanover County. The Vacationer-Supported Agriculture program will be expanding into other coastal and mountain communities in 2021 and beyond.
The Vacationer-Supported Agriculture program has been recognized by the National Association of Community Economic Development Professionals, the NC State Grange Foundation, and the North Carolina Association of Cooperative Extension Specialists.