2016: A vibrant year for local food in Polk County

Published 10:00 pm Monday, February 1, 2016

We are well into the New Year and many have defined their New Years’ resolution as committing to focus on health and nutrition. The old adage, “You are what you eat,” is as true a statement as one could ever utter and I hear more and more from every kind of people that eating healthfully, locally, and with a purpose-driven cravings is something we are all paying much closer attention to.

I love my local sustainable agriculture community. I love it so much because unlike globalized and processed food systems, it loves me right back. Local sustainably grown farm foods are fresher, more nutritious and encourage environmental practices that leave the Earth in better shape than it found it.

2016 is going to be a great year for local food in Western North Carolina. Our farmers markets are a growing success, our restaurants are committing to purchasing local, our groceries and organic food markets are either buying a percentage local or are 100 percent committed to the movement and our diners are heading back to restaurants and letting owners and chefs know they are curious from where their food is sourced.

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We are enjoying the rewards of grassroots community initiatives that are taking ownership of their food source. Local eaters and community projects are developing community gardens, CSAs, non-profit awareness groups and looking at neglected or abandoned farmland, parking lots, buildings and other properties and seeing fresh food plots and shared-use kitchen and agriculture business opportunities.

Polk County has a burgeoning wine region that provides us a chance to learn about the variety of vino we have here. While some local stores stock a few of our local favorites, people love taking the drive out to the wineries to get a more intimate experience, talk to the people who actually make the product and taste it before buying it. Each winery is unique, offers something different and I always walk away learning something new. And what would a discussion on wine be if it didn’t include food?

Buying local isn’t a new friend. We are all beginning to understand how consumer spending affects local economies. For more than ten years now, I have enjoyed witnessing and supporting the successful way Polk County is growing into the future via our activities and businesses in agriculture.