Farmers, fishermen, and buyers from across the region are gathering Friday at UNCW for the 2nd annual Feast DownEast conference.
The theme this year is “Bringing Local Farmers to Market,” and the event includes sessions on how to sell to restaurants, local grocery stores, and larger institutions like schools.
Margaret Shelton, owner of Shelton Herb Farm in Brunswick County, says that although there are new sales opportunities for local farmers, grocery stores don’t always want to buy from them.
“I can go into a local grocery store in April when Lewis Farms, which is local, is shipping strawberries to the state farmer’s market, and shipping out from our local area, but I can go into a local grocery store that’s five miles from my house, and they’re selling strawberries from California. I find it strange.”
Shelton, who is also on the planning committee for the conference, says that grocery stores prefer to buy produce by the truckload and not by the bushel. However, Shelton says that the community’s interest in buying local food is strong and has been shown by support for the Riverfront Farmers’ Market in downtown Wilmington.
“The first year we started, which I think was about seven years ago, we were late in starting one day, and we were an hour late starting because they had a race downtown, and customers were showing up very upset thinking that something had happened to the market. So it started off [a] very lively market, and it has grown since then.”
Along with sessions on marketing and institutional buying, Feast DownEast is also exploring sustainable practices along with farm and fishery building.
Do you have insight or expertise on this topic? If so, we'd like to hear from you. Please email the WHQR News Team.