UNC-TV Program Highlights State’s Versatile Agricultural Economy
Over the past several decades, North Carolina has continued to diversify its strong agricultural economy, transitioning from a reliance on its traditional, tobacco-based system to a more varied economic structure in which farmers rely more and more on specialty crops and other non-traditional products — including locally grown fruits, vegetables, Christmas trees, ornamental plants, flowers and herbs — while also marketing directly to consumers.
“North Carolina Farm Fresh: Spring Harvest” highlights that transition and the Tar Heel state’s prolific direct-to-consumer farm marketing system, including the role of farmer’s markets, community-supported agriculture and agritourism in determining where goodness truly grows in North Carolina this spring. The UNC-TV original production premieres Thursday, April 29, at 9:30 p.m.
For this half-hour special, UNC-TV’s Rick Sullivan traveled the length of the state to spotlight five different methods North Carolina farmers are using to market their goods directly to consumers. “I’ve spent a year covering the state with visits to interesting locations and meeting a lot of pretty impressive folks who are finding new ways to earn their living from the soil,” says Sullivan. “Now, more than ever, I’m thoughtfully considering every food product I bring home to my kitchen.”
“North Carolina Farm Fresh: Spring Harvest” spotlights a variety of food production and distribution methods, including:
n Community Supported Agriculture (CSA): In this cooperative system, consumers themselves invest in local farms by paying in advance for produce the farmer agrees to deliver at a later date. In essence, these consumers are crop “subscribers,” whose investments allow farmers to buy seed and pay farming expenses — all before they incur them. At harvest time, subscribers receive weekly boxes of select fresh produce. “North Carolina Farm Fresh: Spring Harvest” visits Hilltop Farms, in Willow Spring, to highlight its CSA successes.
n Roadside Stands: If you’ve lived in North Carolina any amount of time, you know that many farmers sell their produce directly to consumers via stands on or near their properties. Roadside stands can be as simple as a handwritten yard sign stating, “Peaches, $3 a bushel — Knock on Our Front Door,” or these “stands” can be very elaborate destinations, such as Ken Chappell Peaches in Montgomery County. During the program, viewers will meet Ken Chappell, a third-generation peach grower with a convenient roadside business, brimming with fresh peaches and other seasonal goods.
n Farmers Markets: With literally hundreds of locations across the state at which farmers can come together to meet consumers in a central place, North Carolina farmers markets can range from small operations constituting several pickup trucks pulled together, to a large compound like those found at our official State Farmers Markets. This special features the Asheboro Farmers Market, where a new facility is helping to create a more vital and vibrant downtown. Along the way, viewers also visit the Duke Farmers Market, a private market that brings farmers right to customer’s doorsteps.
n “Pick Your Owns”: There are some crops that are best operated as “Pick Your Owns” or “PYOs,” allowing consumers the unique opportunity to pick and choose their own produce while providing a more cost-effective alternative for farmers. In this program, the show travels to Smith Nurseries in Benson, where farmer Myron Smith is happy to let others harvest the fruits of his (and their) labor for a fee.
n Agritourism: Some North Carolina farms attempt to attract tourists as a means of staying financially viable. Of these, some are working farms that invite visitors to “view and do” farm activities at a cost; others don’t charge, allowing tourist exposure to pay off in other ways. “North Carolina Farm Fresh: Spring Harvest” features one such agritourism locale: Mountain Farm in Burnsville, home to farm animals, lavender, a nice place to stay for the night, and a breathtaking mountaintop view.
“North Carolina Farm Fresh: Spring Harvest” is a production of UNC-TV in association with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. Funding was provided by the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.
UNC-TV’s Director of Production Shannon Vickery says the program is an example of a strong collaboration between UNC-TV and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.
“We are excited to work with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture to give our viewers an in-depth look at the variety of farm operations in North Carolina and provide them with vital information about how to access North Carolina-grown food products,” says Vickery. “I look forward to our continued partnership in this project. ”
The program is the first installment of a two-part series chronicling the state’s prolific direct-to-consumer farm marketing systems. A second special, “North Carolina Farm Fresh: Fall Harvest,” will premiere later this year.
For more information, visit www.unctv.org/ncfarmfresh.
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