A partnership between the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project and the Rural Advancement Foundation International is aimed at increasing farmer direct sales and expanding access to local foods.
The project, called Connect2Direct, aims to increase farm-to-consumer direct sales and food stamp use at North Carolina farmers markets by 100 percent over the next two years. To do that, the organizations will give training and technical assistance to markets and their vendors, work on marketing and outreach, work on the technical aspects of using food stamp payments and build capacity and efficiency statewide.
Though demand for local food is growing in North Carolina — the state is home to almost 250 farmers markets — sales grew only slightly from 2007 to 2012, increasing by $31.8 million. But from 2010 to 2013, the number of N.C. farmers markets able to accept food stamps increased by 175 percent, growing from 24 to 66.
“We’ve just scratched the surface of potential for North Carolina farms and communities. Efforts to expand access through outreach and food assistance programs are good for our farms, our health, and our local economies,” said Charlie Jackson, executive director of ASAP.
Upcoming workshops and announcements are listed at www.connect2direct.org.