Could You Spend $1 a Day on Local Food?

— Written By Kellyn Montgomery

Spring has sprung! Lawns are green, trees are budding, and allergies are flaring. It is also time to get out into the garden and anticipate an abundance of greens, broccoli, carrots, strawberries, and much more. The farmers markets are about to start back up again too! Opening day at the Downtown Hickory Farmers Market is April 18th. The Conover Farmers Market starts on April 25th. It’s an exciting time of year, especially for local food.

As we head into farmers market season, consider what a difference you could make by spending just $1 a day on local food. North Carolinians spend about $35 billion a year on food. If each person spent just 10 percent on food locally – roughly $1.05 per day – then approximately $3.5 billion would be available in the state’s economy. That would have a hugely positive impact on local farmers and the local economy. Locally owned businesses, like farms, are much more likely than non-local businesses to use local services and products, a phenomenon called the multiplier effect. This means that money spent locally recirculates and stays in the local economy longer.

On the opening days of the Downtown Hickory Farmers Market and the Conover Farmers Market, we will be celebrating the impact that local food has on the economy by promoting the NC 10% Campaign. The campaign is an effort to encourage North Carolinians to spend 10 percent of their food dollars on foods from local sources. Through the campaign website – www.nc10percent.com  — consumers and businesses pledge to spend 10 percent of their food dollars locally, purchasing products from area farmers and food producers. Campaign participants receive weekly email reminders to report how much money they spent on local food. The website shows consumers how dollars spent on local foods in our state grow as more people take the 10 percent pledge.

N.C. Cooperative Extension helps connect people to local food by providing information on local farms, markets, restaurants, and retail stores that source locally. Campaign members can also use the NC 10% Campaign website to find local farms and businesses that source locally in their own communities. The website includes links to information on a variety of partner organizations and educational information on topics ranging from how to start a community garden to how to cook seasonal, local products.

Since the campaign began in 2010, $64,477,086 has been spent on local food in North Carolina. So far, two hundred Catawba County community members and twenty businesses have joined the campaign and pledged to spend 10 percent locally. I know there are many more people in our county that are already spending 10 percent or more on local food. If you are interested in pledging and helping to demonstrate our community’s commitment to local food and local businesses, come visit the campaign booth at the farmers markets this month! You can also go to www.nc10percent.com or contact Kellyn Montgomery at kellyn_montgomery@ncsu.edu or 828-465-8243 to sign up. Come see us at the markets on April 18th in Hickory and April 25th in Conover!