Local Foods as Economic Development in Cabarrus County

July 17, 2012 at 3:24 pm

The UNC School of Government’s Community and Economic Development blog will be posting  a series on local foods as a part of economic and community development strategies. The first post in the series provided a case study on the Cabarrus County Food Policy Council. As described by the blog,

Cabarrus’ food policy council has 23 members from all aspects of the food system – educators, financiers, growers, health professionals, distributors, food preparation entrepreneurs, chefs/caterers, and hunger relief workers. Their goal is to take a comprehensive look at their food system and make policy and program recommendations to elected officials.

In 2011, the County contracted NC State’s Center for Environmental Farming Systems to conduct a food systems analysis. It incorporated perspectives from a range of stakeholders, and presented County leaders with an assessment of the County’s strengths, weaknesses, and recommendations for improvement and growth. The analysis has provided the Food Policy Council and County Commissioners with a guide for the future of the local foods system.  The County also owns a 30-acre incubator farm and teaching facility in conjunction with the NC Cooperative Extension-Cabrarrus Center.

The result of these efforts has been a concerted investment in local foods programming, a staff person dedicated to the incubator farm and the Food Policy Council, the development of a local foods brand for Cabarrus County, and, most importantly, the growth of at least 12 new businesses in the area. These businesses range from farms to producers, distributors, processors, etc.

As the local foods staff person says, “Food is a wonderful catalyst for making positive change in your community.” The example of Cabarrus County shows what thoughtful planning and innovation can do to strengthen a community. Not only does the Cabarrus County example support local foods, but it also helps to get healthy, sustainable foods to more people and it serves as a generator of economic growth beyond the farm. This effort should be coordinated across the state, at the local level and also at the state and regional levels.

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Entry filed under: Agriculture Policy, Economic Development, Farm Policy, Healthy Foods. Tags: , , .

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