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Farmers: Go Local with Your Holiday Meals

A aerial view of Old Orchard Creek Farm in Ashe County is one example of land protected by land conservancy. (Old Orchard Creek)
A aerial view of Old Orchard Creek Farm in Ashe County is one example of land protected by land conservancy. (Old Orchard Creek)
December 14, 2016

FRANKLIN, N.C. – With less than two weeks to go before Christmas, North Carolinians are busy planning their holiday menus. And with hundreds of small farms around the state providing everything from eggnog to beef, groups hope folks go local when cooking this month.

Many of the state's smaller farms are found on conservation land, which provides a way of protecting the land and the family businesses that call it home, said Sharon Taylor, executive director of Mainspring Conservation Trust.

"During the holidays when we're so consumed with what we're going to cook and what we're going to eat, that we are all aware of still going to the farmer's markets when they're open with some of the winter crops that we all have food on our table that's been locally produced," she said.

In most cases, when a landowner chooses to work with a land trust, he or she retains ownership of the land and has the right to continue to use it for agricultural purposes. The most recent USDA census (in 2012) showed a five-percent decrease in the number of North Carolina farms between 2007 and 2012. And during those years, only 43 percent of those farms recorded net economic gains.

Walter Clark owns Old Orchard Creek, a blueberry farm in Ashe County, and also is executive director of the Blue Ridge Conservancy.

"Our blueberries we sell at the local farmer's market in Ashe County and several restaurants around the High County," he said. "So that's an example of how the product I'm familiar with goes from a conserved farm with a conservation easement on it to people's tables."

Taylor said for all the acres she and the other land conservancies in the state have saved from development, there are thousands more in need of preserving.

"A lot of people don't understand that land conservation can go along with food production because, I think, a lot of people think if you conserve your land that you can't do anything with it, but that is just not the truth," she added. "You can continue to use your land and certainly farming is totally consistent with conservation."

To find out where you can find locally grown and raised produce, meats and dairy, NC Farm Fresh has a comprehensive list of farms.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC