Lynn Sprague: ‘Best year ever for Polk’s farmer’s markets’

Published 8:02 am Monday, November 14, 2011

This year has been an amazing year for agriculture in Polk County, according to county officials. With four thriving farmer’s markets, the grand opening of the Polk Fresh Trade Post at the Mill Spring Ag Center and several area businesses offering locally grown and hand-made products, folks are voting with their dollars and putting Polk County’s local economy on the fast track toward sustainability, according to Lynn

Sprague, the county’s agricultural economic development director.

“Conservatively speaking, with the fruit and vegetables produced here along with specialty crops, like sprouts, value added products such as honey, wine and apples,  Polk County agriculture is generating over 25 million per year,” Sprague said. “We live in one of the most abundant places on Earth and each year our growing demand for all things local is leading us in new innovative directions. Agri-tourism, for example, is gaining popularity across Western North Carolina and offers visitors a real farm experience that not only entertains, but creates lasting memories. (Sometimes those memories even inspires one to sell their house in the city and buy a farm in Columbus.) Vineyards are also booming and more are opening tasting rooms and offering farm tours to capitalize on this attractive way of life. We also have a strong equestrian community, with a great deal of potential energy, that has long been a major player for horse events in the region.”

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Several new agricultural ventures are currently happening in the county, Polk farm market manager Vaughn Loeffler said, such as a culinary herb production facility capable of growing and shipping bulk orders, an aquaponics operation that will produce freshwater fish and salad greens, a ‘glamping’ farm that will combine outdoor recreation/education with slightly finer dining and amenities than tent camping.

“We are on the verge of great things in Polk County and thanks to our farmers and patrons of our markets we will continue to grow every year,” Loeffler said. “This week at the Columbus Farmer’s Market you’ll find locally produced greens, potatoes, pumpkins, squash, mushrooms, baked goods, chicken, beef, eggs and more. And after the markets are over you can still get your Polk Fresh fix at the ag center farm store.”

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– article submitted by Vaughn Loeffler