- Fruits: berries (blueberries), berries (brambles)
- Crop Production: greenhouses
- Farm Business Management: community-supported agriculture, farm-to-restaurant
- Soil Management: composting
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems
The SNAP initiative has greatly energized the Polk County with its agricultural heritage. In a time of deep recession, work is being done with the social service agencies, such as the Isothermal Outreach Ministries to integrate agriculture into an economic strategy for distressed families from growing backyard gardens to starting farming operations. Many families, now unemployed, have land that can be farmed and there is an open market for good locally grown produce. Including Asheville, Greenville, SC and Spartansburg, SC there are over 1.23 million people in our economic area.
As we come to the end of the summer planting season, and the final report for the grant, many exciting new things are finally in the development stage for SNAP!
We are looking to attract entrepreneurial farmers to small, rural Polk County, and to create a community wide cultural understanding of sustainable community practices. By creating a network of organic farmers, and a consortium of local restaurant owners and retail market owners who are committed to purchasing and featuring their local products, we believe we can create a local food infrastructure for a cooperative and profitable entrepreneurial business market. The added bonus to this plan is that the restaurant owners will actively engage to obtain a zero waste status for their business by participating in a comprehensive recycling plan, part of which will help to create compost which will then be returned to the organic farms to help create rich, fertile soil. This Full Circle of Life process will create a visible and palpable model of sustainability that the entire community can participate in and expand upon.
From Farm to Fork and back to Farm again are the three objectives that create the full sustainable circle of this project.
1. From Farm: The objective of this first step is to develop a network of at least 4 local organic farmers that collectively can supply produce to area restaurants meeting year round needs as realistically as possible. The farmers benefit by having a local established market for their produce so they can focus on the diversity, quality, timing and seasonal extensions of their crops. In addition to enhancing existing operations, an initiative effort will be made to engage 1-2 new farming operations. A key to this objective is to have the buyer already in place so the farmers can focus on their production and know the produce can be sold.
2. To Fork: This objective is to provide restaurants with a reliable and somewhat predictable source of local fresh produce. Not only will they get high quality fresh produce, but locally grown organic initiatives are very marketable to the public. Also by working directly with the growers, they can help guide the choice of varieties and seasonal needs which will suite their menus. Already there are six local restaurants that have been identified as interested in featuring locally grown produce. By having on-site information about the network integrated into their businesses, these restaurants also serve as a significant awareness vehicle for the community and for people visiting the community.
3. Back To Farm: This objective is to complete a sustainability loop as an alternate to the traditional solid waste disposal. We are very fortunate to have a working company that has successfully recycled and processed waste in this fashion in nearby Asheville, NC and is interested in operations in Polk County. The benefit to the restaurants is to show that their operations are 100% green, the farmers will have high quality compost, and the disposal company will have a saleable product, including the recycled materials.
From a Polk County standpoint this project meets objectives to encourage agriculture and entrepreneurial enterprises. The project can be expanded as a sustainable project within Polk County and it can also be transferable to other areas in North Carolina and the region. A major objective is to have the project continue as a self-sufficient economic initiative.