- Agronomic: corn, soybeans
- Fruits: melons
- Vegetables: cucurbits, eggplant, sweet potatoes
- Additional Plants: tobacco
- Animals: bovine, poultry, swine
- Animal Products: meat
- Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems
Integrated local food systems are able to bridge institutional buyers with small and medium sized farmers creating vibrant, sustainable economies. In order to develop and coordinate a local and regional food system in Southeastern North Carolina, significant research is needed to determine market opportunities and production capacity to fulfill these opportunities. Assessment of direct markets including: the public school system in the six county region, independently owned restaurants and grocers, UNC system universities and regional hospitals, will allow the interests and needs of these institutions concerning participation in local food systems to be identified and documented. Only through the identification of these needs can local food purchasing be approached systematically. Furthermore, the capacity of regional growers must be assessed concerning their growing interest and ability. This, combined with the market assessment, will enable farmers to maximize their profits through accumulated information about available markets and demanded products. This will enable farmers and institutional buyers to be optimally paired through product and quantity demand and/or supply. Local food systems are able to address many problems associated with our current food system and provide alternatives that contributes to the local economy and the health of a community without depleting natural resources. In order to implement such a system, a strong foundation must be secured through research identifying the specific needs of the region that must be addressed. Researching and assessing the market opportunities and production capabilities will significantly inform the development of the Southeastern North Carolina Food Systems Project.
Project objectives from proposal:
The Objectives of the Southeastern N.C. Food Systems Research Project are: 1. to research the potential demand and opportunities for developing an institutional buying system of local foods in Southeastern North Carolina;
2. to research the needs, challenges, and interest of limited resource farmers in moving from export food production to local food production; 3. to research institutional buying patterns and expenses in Southeastern NC in order to identify food purchases where local food production would be competitive and result in cost savings and other benefits to institutional buyers; 4. to research and identify direct market opportunities for local food purchasing; 5. research the opportunities and challenges for local and regional farm to school projects, focus on diverse food production and sales to meet local demand; 6. research and identify small and medium sized farmers, with an emphasis on limited resource farmers, in the six county region as a basis for outreach and recruitment for participation in the regional food systems project; 7. research the present and emerging production of organic foods in Southeastern NC and do a comparative profit analysis of producing organic foods vs. conventional food production; 8. Complete major report on research findings in order to inform the development of the Southeastern NC Food Systems Project.