Shortly after I took office as commissioner of agriculture five years ago, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services launched a new marketing program called Got to Be NC. The purpose of the program was to raise awareness of food and agricultural products grown or produced right here in North Carolina.
Over the past few years, interest in locally raised food has grown dramatically. I don’t know whether it’s all because of Got to Be NC, but I’d like to think we had at least something to do with North Carolinians’ increased interest in where their food comes from.
The General Assembly took note of the trend last summer by passing legislation creating the N.C. Sustainable Local Food Advisory Council. Its diverse membership includes farmers, educators, food industry executives, community activists and local-food advocates, plus State Health Director Jeff Engel, Commerce Secretary Keith Crisco and me. Some of us serve because of our positions in the state, and Gov. Beverly Perdue, Senate leader Marc Basnight, House Speaker Joe Hackney and I appointed the rest of the members.
The council will hold its first meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 2, in the Martin Building at the State Fairgrounds. The meeting is open to the public, and I encourage anyone interested in local food to attend.
The General Assembly charged the council to focus its work on four subjects: health and wellness, hunger and food access, economic development, and preservation of farmlands and water resources.
North Carolina agriculture makes many positive contributions to the state’s economy and environmental quality. Agriculture creates jobs, preserves open space and provides our citizens with nutritious food. I’m looking forward to this council going to work to benefit North Carolina by expanding our local food economy.
Our department has created a Web site to share information about the council and its work. You can visit www.ncagr.gov/localfood.