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October 22, 2013

EAT DRINK AND BE LOCAL EVENT SUPPORTS FARMERS, RESTAURANTS, LOCAL ECONOMY

 

When you’re enjoying a meal at home or in a restaurant, do you give much thought to how the food got to your table and who provided it? For the second consecutive year, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension-Catawba County Center and several restaurants are teaming up to support the work of local farmers and to answer that question for many residents of Catawba County.

This year, breakfast will be the focus for “Eat, Drink and Be Local”. During this event, which will run from Friday, November 1 through Sunday, November 3, Bistro 127 at 2039 North Center Street in Hickory, Café Gouda at 2960 North Center Street in Hickory, Josh’s on Union Square in Hickory and O’Cup Bean and Bakery at 3279 East Main Street in Claremont will feature specials made from local food.

Those eating breakfast at those restaurants from November 1 through 3 will get to learn about agriculture in Catawba County and see exactly which farms and farmers provided the food for their meal. O’ Cup Bean and Bakery will participate in the event on the morning of November 1. Bistro 127 will be a part of Eat, Drink and Be Local on November 1 and 2. Josh’s will feature the event during its Sunday brunch hours on November 3.

“Buying locally and patronizing restaurants that source their menu items from the local area helps people better understand the successful agricultural economy in our county, and also supports local farmers," said Haley Kadish, who is working with Catawba County as an International City/County Management Association Fellow and is one of the organizers of the event. “Most consumers are several generations removed from a farming background and don't have a personal knowledge of food production or modern agriculture.”

Many Catawba County residents don’t realize that there are currently over 130 farms in Catawba County. Technology has become so advanced that it now only takes one farmer to feed over 100 people. Most food now travels long distances, through multiple wholesalers, distributors and processors before it reaches the dinner table.

While more efficient production has removed past concerns that the foods area citizens need will be produced, the organizers of Eat, Drink and Be Local are concerned that the public’s understanding and appreciation of agriculture has suffered. The campaign also touches on the impact of farming and food production to the local economy

“Everyone benefits from the use of local foods and the support of our county’s farmers,” says Julie Lehmann, Manager of the Conover Farmers Market. “When selling locally, farmers get to keep three times more of the total price of that product. So farmers benefit by selling their crops and agricultural product for a good price close to home, and consumers benefit by getting better, fresher products that have consumed much less fuel and energy to get to them. Buying locally is truly a win-win exchange for everyone.”

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average consumer spent $926 on fruits and vegetables, $533 on dairy, and $1,084 on meat products consumed in the home in 2011. Given Catawba County’s population of over 154,000 people, and the fact that many of those products are produced locally, households making small changes in food buying choices can have a large impact county-wide. Adding to this impact is what is known as the Local Multiplier Effect, which holds that every $1 spent locally has the economic impact of approximately $3 because of the way the money is recirculated within the local economy.

The Eat, Drink and Be Local event is part of the Cooperative Extension’s ongoing Farm & Food Sustainability Plan, which seeks to link farmers with consumers, which will help support agriculture in the County.

“We find that people enjoy local food and one great way is to introduce local foods in our local restaurants,” Kadish added. “People can then connect with the local farmers and know that they are helping their neighbors make a living while eating fresh and healthy food."

For more information on the Eat, Drink and Be Local events at Bistro 127, Café Gouda, and Josh’s on Union Square in Hickory and O’Cup Bean and Bakery in Claremont, November 1-3, you may contact Catawba County Cooperative Extension at 828-465-8240.