It’s Monday, and farmer Isaac Oliver begins his week at the computer.
Out on their 72-acre Harmony Ridge Farms in Tobaccoville, Isaac and dad Kevin raise ducks, harvest eggs and grow produce. At the start of each week, Isaac emails his list of available products to nearly 70 restaurants in Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Raleigh and Durham. Over the next few days, chefs text or email him what they want.
“A restaurant in Charlotte orders 20 ducks every week and a lot of our eggs are on standing order, but otherwise, it’s week-to-week,” Isaac said.
Where the hard rock of the Piedmont gives way to the sandy Coastal Plain, two company towns that lost their companies are looking for economic revival to the rivers that put them on the map.
Great Falls in South Carolina and Badin in North Carolina grew up along the geologic fall line beside wild, majestic stretches of whitewater that entrepreneurs harnessed for electricity and for industry, a quintessential American story retold up and down the East Coast in the early 1900s. Now, years after the textile mills in Great Falls quit spinning on the Catawba River and the aluminum smelter in Badin shut its furnaces on the Yadkin, both towns hope to reinvent themselves with a new kind of industry: ecotourism.
In any conversation about strengthening urban and rural connections, local food systems are usually suggested as the prime example. Images of farmers’ markets come to mind, where urban consumers have the opportunity not only to buy fresh fruits and vegetables but to get to know the growers and producers.
In reality, the food system is more complex, and involves more than just growing food and bringing it to the table. It reflects an array of regulations, policies and markets. So what do we know about local food systems in our region? What impact do they have on urban and rural consumers, as well as regional social well-being and economic connections?