Food Friday: A How-To Guide For Fitting More Local Foods Into Your Diet

By Cassidy Hobbs Hall
Area Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences
Johnston County Cooperative Extension

You may have heard of the NC 10% Campaign geared towards encouraging consumers to spend at least 10% of their food dollars on NC-grown or NC-caught foods. According to the NC 10% Campaign, North Carolinians spend $35 billion on food each year. If 10% of these items were purchases from NC farms, $3.5 billion would remain in the NC economy.

According to the 2017 USDA Census, Johnston County alone contributed to over $2 million in sales across 106 farms that sell direct-to-consumers. Johnston County has 42 fruit, nut, and berry farms in addition to 140 vegetable, melon, and potato farms. This math may not add up to the reported 106 farms selling direct-to-consumers, and this is because some of these farms sell to grocery stores and export. With this being said, anyone can look for local foods whether it be in grocery stores or directly from farms.

When you are shopping at grocery stores, check the produce label to find out where your food is coming from. For example, if you are purchasing strawberries right now, chances are that these foods are being shipped from Florida because North Carolina has not quite entered into strawberry harvest season. You can check the packaging label on the container to identify where the food was produced. For items that are fresh and in bulk, such as green bell peppers, you can check the sticker on the item. Typically, items that are in-season are also on sale or showcased near the entrance of the produce section from the door.

We are extremely fortunate in Johnston County to have produce farms and greenhouses in nearly every corner of the county. If you don’t enjoy planning your weekly menu from scratch, a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) produce box may be the solution for you.

CSA produce boxes can be purchased directly from participating farms in the county on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis. Each farm will be different, so be sure to check out their website for details. Depending on the frequency you choose, you’ll receive a box of items from the farm.

Based on what you receive, you’ll have a better idea of items you may need to purchase from the store or what recipes to prepare. If you enjoy planning and making lists, perhaps visiting the farm is a better option for you.

You can check each farm’s website or social media account and find which items they currently have for sale. Keep in mind that the food available is based on the growing season and climate of North Carolina, so don’t expect to see bananas at a farm in Johnston County!

In addition to open farm markets and roadside stands where the foods are harvested for you to purchase, you can also visit U-pick farms. This is a great experience to get your family excited about eating fruits and vegetables as they get their hands in the soil and choose the food they want to take home. U-pick farms typically offer this experience during strawberry season, but other opportunities throughout the year may be available.

You don’t have to travel to the State Farmers Market to buy local produce. It can be done right here in the county. There are, however, numerous Johnston County farms who sell at the State Farmers Market. Thus, if you find yourself there, you can still purchase from your neighbors.

Unfortunately, harvest season doesn’t tend to last very long and you may find yourself getting great deals on fresh produce resulting in an overabundance. Many of these foods can be preserved through freezing, canning, dehydrating, as well as pickling and fermenting.

The next Food Friday article will focus on gearing up to preserve local foods.

In the meantime, be sure to check out or download the NC Farms App to find farms near you.

Previous Food Friday Articles
Local Farms Are A Resource Towards A Healthier Johnston County

Nutrients You May Not Be Getting Enough Of And Current “Trendy” Eating Patterns

Choosing The Right Carbohydrates

The 3 P’s To Increasing Your Fruits & Veggies