Following our recent Alfred State Summit, this past Monday and Tuesday we attended a similar summit on sustainable food in North Carolina. This “Farm to Fork” summit was hosted by the Center for Environmental Farming Systems and North Carolina’s two land grant universities: NC A&T & NC State. Notable speakers included Mary McNeil, USDA Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights (extending regards from Secretary Vilsack), NC Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler and The Honorable Eva Clayton, former U.S. Representative.
Governor Bev Perdue delivered an address on Tuesday in which she said to those in attendance, “I’m on your team. Tell me what you need to grow this whole new industry.” She acknowledged her audience was likely uncomfortable with the term “industry,” but that local and sustainable foods were an increasing part of our agricultural economy. She went on to pledge her support not just politically but in the marketplace, saying, “We are a diverse agricultural community and I want to let everyone know it’s important to have consumers like me make it a priority to buy locally and buy sustainably.”
The mission of the Farm to Fork initiative is seemingly simple: “Building a Sustainable, Local Food Economy.” Its implementation, however, will involve many groups, agencies and people working in pursuit of this common goal. And while summit organizers placed an emphasis on defining “local,” doing the same for “sustainable” presented more of a challenge. Is it humane? Is it fair? Is it environmentally sound? There are still many questions to answer in shaping a new agricultural economy, prompting more than one speaker to end his or her presentation with this closing message: “Let’s get to work.” We look forward to working with the extension agents, nonprofits and farmers we met to answer that call.
Watch footage from the event featuring Animal Welfare Approved farmer Lee Menius of Wild Turkey Farms.