Eating locally grows in popularity

By Allison McNeill
Carrboro Commons Writer

Carrboro residents are taking the phrase “eat local” to heart. The trend, which encourages consumers to buy agricultural products from local farmers has caught on in the community.

The Carrboro Farmers’ Market features farmers from surrounding towns and counties who come to sell their local fare. From vegetables to wine, from basil to flowers, there is an abundance of locally grown items to choose from.

mcneill_eatlocal.jpg On a brisk Saturday morning, Carol Badgett (middle) purchased fresh sweet basil from Sun Meadow Greenhouses of Chatham County, N.C. Badgett beat the crowd that was soon to follow.
Staff photo by Allison McNeill

Sarah Bracklin, manager of the farmers’ market, attributed the growing popularity of buying local fare to “a combination of a lot of things.”

Bracklin says that buying local food is “community building,” and that it allows consumers to know more about what they’re eating. “People have been detached from knowing where their food comes from,” she said. Additionally, numerous books discussing the benefit of local foods and media attention are raising the awareness of eating locally.

Food scares play another large part in the trend, Bracklin said, as do concerns of using fossil fuels to transport food from different geographic areas.

Joan Holeman, a vendor at the Farmers’ Market and the owner of Flat River Nursery in Timberlake, in neighboring Person County, has witnessed and experienced the effects of the trend. “More and more people tell me they are eating locally each year,” she says.

One man told her that he rarely ever shops at the grocery store now, going instead to the markets.

Holeman has participated in the Farmers’ Market since 1996. Her husband quit his job to work with the farm and travel to markets full time.

North Carolina wines are also growing in popularity, though not at the same rate as produce.

Nancy Zeman, of Benjamin Vineyards and Winery of Saxapahaw, just west of Carrboro, says, “People think of produce first, meat second, and then wine third. People just don’t really think of wine, but they should; it’s an agriculture product, too.”

A Carrboro man has taken eating locally to the extreme. Tim Baird, a graduate student in geography at UNC-CH, is participating in a year-long study called Locavore Nation, which requires him to adjust his diet such that it consist of at least 80 percent local food.

The study is sponsored by “The Splendid Table,” a weekly radio program on National Public Radio. After filling out a survey, 15 individuals from across the country were selected from a field of 15,000.

Baird’s wife, Kiyah, is a graduate student at UNC-CH in the nutrition department, focusing on obesity. Baird says she has always been interested in eating well, but he admits to having a fondness for frozen pizza and sugar cereal.

Baird says, “The prospect of writing something for that size – nationally – for me, was a much more compelling reason than eating locally.” Although it was not the primary motivating factor, Baird did say that the program would be a “great opportunity to eat better.”

Though he said the novelty of the program has worn off, he is excited for spring because it will mean a new group of foods to choose from. He has been eating “loads and loads of sweet potatoes, kales, sausage and eggs.” Baird says, “I never thought I’d get to a time where I’m tired of eating sausage and ice cream all the time.”

Baird has some difficulty finding places to eat on campus. If he does not bring something from home, he gets lunch from Mediterranean Deli. Baird has gotten to know the owner and knows that the store uses local meat and produce.

Baird says he likes to use his 20 percent of non-local food to buy “bags of beautiful fruit,” such as oranges and grapes from Fla. and Calif.

The Bairds are also part of a group called the Soup Collective. It was founded by Carrboro citizen Meghan Slining. Each week, someone in the group makes a batch of soup and the others each get a Tupperware full. Baird says the group “takes off the pressure of figuring out what to eat for about two days.”

Baird said having a group of people also eating local food is fun because it creates a community. He likened the experience of people being pumped about food to that of the UNC basketball community being pumped about basketball.

Bracklin does not think the popularity of eating local has reached its peak. “The demand is there for more farmers’ markets,” she says. “People want to know as much information as they can right now. You want to feel like you have something special.”

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