When farmers in the Midlands have a question about food safety, regulations, transportation logistics, or even how to expand or continue farming, a bigger question often comes up: Who has those answers? With several different types of organizations from government to local nonprofits, it isn’t always easy for growers to get the right information from the right resource. Since 2011, the Midlands Local Food Collaborative has been helping to fill that void in a unified effort.
Three years ago, the Richland County Water Conservation District entered into a cooperative with the National Resources Conservation Service to promote local, sustainable farming in the Midlands region.
“Once we started working on that project, we decided we needed to be more informed about what our partner agencies were doing,” says Chanda Cooper, the education program coordinator for the Richland County Conservation Department. “Our joint efforts are on improving local food systems in the Midlands.”
In finding that many organizations already had similar goals, the Midlands Food Collaborative was formed out of a working group of agency folks from the USDA, Richland County Soil and Water Conservation District, Sustainable Midlands, Clemson University CEICD and the state Department of Agriculture.
What: Future of Midlands Food and Farms Summit
Where: Phillips Market Center at the State Farmers Market, 3483 Charleston Highway, West Columbia
When: Monday, Aug. 4, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.
Price: Free. RSVP by calling 360-3358
Katie Welborn heads up the effort as a community organizer for a project out of the Center for Research in Nutrition and Health Disparities at the University of South Carolina that is working to build the capacity of South Carolina communities to strengthen local food systems. She has been working with farmers and other stakeholders to identify barriers to growing and sourcing locally in the Midlands. Thus far the focus has been on the actual farmers and gleaning from their stories ways to make farming and selling food for direct human consumption more manageable, fostering economic development in a sector where consumer trends show there is room for growth.
Currently, South Carolinians consume $11 billion in produce, but only grow $1 billion of that food within the state, says Jack Shuler, president of the Palmetto Agribusiness Council, a trade organization for large agribusinesses. Recruiting more people to farming would keep more of those dollars local.
“It’s a great opportunity for South Carolina to eat local food; we know that it is fresher and healthier,” he says. “Maybe generations can change what and how we eat in our state.”
For example, a 2013 study called Making Small Farms into Big Business lays out opportunities for more farmers to make a living growing food for human consumption in South Carolina as opposed to focusing on growing commodity crops such as tobacco, corn, soy and cotton.
In addition to recruiting farmers, the Midlands Local Food Collaborative wants to assess whether there are or will be enough farmers who grow food for human consumption and would like to utilize the services of a food hub in the Midlands. A food hub is an entity that acts as a middleman between farmers and commercial food sellers and provides increased infrastructure, logistical, and marketing support for farmers, connecting them with local stores, restaurants or other commercial buyers, freeing up the farmers to focus on their crops. Food hubs can also carry greater liability in terms of food safety than individual farms may be able to. Hubs also can involve commercial kitchen facilities, freezers and other processing equipment.
Currently, GrowFood Carolina in Charleston is the only functioning food hub in South Carolina. It operates as a nonprofit through a grant from the Coastal Conservation League but hopes to be self-sustaining in a few years.
“There are a lot of people interested in the concept, and we want to work together and move this effort along faster,” Shuler says. “It won’t happen in a year or even five unless someone steps up and says they have people and money [to start one in their region].”
This week, the Collaborative is hosting The Future of Midlands Food and Farms Summit for growers, buyers and anyone interested in the Midlands to learn, network and share their opinions on the future of farming in South Carolina.
“The most important thing,” Welborn says, “is to escalate the voice of the farmer when it comes to changes that need to be made in our food system and policies that affect agriculture and access to fresh foods in the Midlands.”
3LAU on Sunday, October 26th and the Unofficial Skrillex Mothership Tour After-Party on the 27th. More information and tickets for both can be found here. VIP tables available.
King Lear in Finlay Park
October 16th-18th and 22nd-25th, the South Carolina Shakespeare Company presents William Shakespeare’s King Lear. All performances held at the Finlay Park Ampitheatre at 7:30 PM. For tickets and more information, click here or call 803-665-2000.
The Other Place at Trustus Theatre
Juliana Smithton is a successful neurologist whose life seems to be coming unhinged. A mystery unfolds as fact blurs with fiction, past collides with present and the elusive truth of Juliana’s mental health boils to the surface in The Other Place, running at Trustus Theatre October 17th through November 1st. There will be a talk-back following the matinee on October 19th. Tickets can be purchased here or by calling the box office at 803-254-9732.
$10 Spa Specials!
Join us for 60-minute facials, microdermabrasion, bikini waxing, and more for only $10! 823 Gervais Street, Suite 120. Text your appointment request to 803-468-4643.
Veteran Vapors now open!
Veteran-owned and operated, Veteran Vapors is located at 2308 Airport Blvd. in West Columbia. This month, 10% of all juice sales will be donated to Save the Ta-Tas. Special discounts available to veterans, military and public safety officials.
SEARCH FREE TIMES
Local business is searching for new associates who are looking for a fun environment to earn great wages. Great position for college students/recent graduates. Must be well-mannered with excellent customer service skills/work ethic/ability to lift heavy items/must have valid Driver’s License. Call 803-376-4884 or email resume: firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Security Associates
Now hiring immediately for armed and unarmed security officers. WE TRAIN YOU! Columbia & surrounding areas. ussecurityassociates.com
Real Estate Spotlight
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