Catawba Farm and Food Coalition: Steps in the Healthy Direction

York County, SC (Jan. 8, 2018) Ben Boyles, Clemson University Agribusiness Development Agent, shared his vision for strengthening our regional food-based economy during ESMMYC’s October 2017 general meeting. Boyles is co-founder and co-chair of the Catawba Farm and Food Coalition (CFFC). CFFC promotes the purchase of locally grown and produced foods in order to keep valuable agricultural land in production; ensure the economic viability of farms; benefit public and environmental health and strengthen our regional economy. This local non-profit organization is devoted to supporting all facets of the food system of York, Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster and Union Counties.

One growing CFFM initiative is the Catawba Fresh Market, an online market that brings local farm products directly to the consumer, for pickup at a convenient neighborhood location. Orders are delivered weekly to sites in York County (Clover, Fort Mill, Lake Wylie, Rock Hill, Tega Cay); Lancaster County (Indian Land); Chester County (Chester); Union County (Union); and the Microsoft Campus in Charlotte.

A critical initiative under development for our local community is CFFC’s promotion of a regional food hub, consistent with the Making Small Farms into Big Business – South Carolina strategic plan. As the Federal Reserve System’s Lael Brainard and James Bullard write in Harvesting Opportunity: The Power of Regional Food System Investments to Transform Communities, “approaches that support the development of regional food systems not only contribute direct economic benefits to the community, but can also open the door for improved access to healthy food and other positive outcomes that could result in improved community health and a more productive workforce.” Food hub development is happening throughout the state and country to help small farmers compete in large markets. Food hubs help with crop planning, warehousing, marketing and distribution. CFFC has identified an ideal warehouse facility for this effort in York. The proposed Catawba Fresh Food Hub would serve York, Chester, Fairfield, Lancaster and Union Counties, and connect to the Lowcountry, Midlands, Pee Dee, and Upstate SC regional food hubs. CFFC currently is pursuing support from elected officials and community members.

CFFC offers producer and consumer education, teaching folks to grow and market their own products. Monthly workshops through June 2018 are covering high tunnels; pasture management; marketing channels; farmer/chef tango; social media 101; and growing for the seasons. Other CFFM-promoted agribusiness development initiatives in Chester include a farmers market; kitchen incubator and community garden.

Boyles also is the Director of the South Carolina Ag + Art Tour, a free, self-guided tour of designated farms in South Carolina featuring local artisans and farmer’s markets. This tour enables participants to see first-hand where their food comes from, watch artists in action and purchase their works, dance to the melodies of bluegrass and folksongs, and learn more about rural life. Boyles is a graduate of Clemson University with degrees in agricultural economics and city and regional planning and resides in Rock Hill.

To learn more about CFFC initiatives, attend a CFFC Policy and Planning meeting. (The next one will be on Wednesday, January 10, 2018 from 12:30-2pm at the Winthrop University DiGiorgio campus center, Room 257 (Building #16 on the campus map).

Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina
Catawba Fresh Market is supported by the Chester and York County chapters of Eat Smart, Move More (ESMM) South Carolina. ESMM is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to positively impacting the health of all South Carolinians by promoting healthy eating and active living where we live, learn, work, pray and play. ESMM does this by partnering with community leaders and focusing on policy, systems and environmental changes that influence people to make healthy choices.

Clemson University Cooperative Extension
The national Cooperative Extension Service engages citizens to improve economic development and quality of life by delivering research-based information in agriculture, natural resources, food safety and nutrition, economic and community development, and 4-H youth development. South Carolina Cooperative Extension is based at the state’s two land-grant institutions — Clemson University and South Carolina State University. Clemson Extension agents are located in all 46 counties and at the university’s five Research and Education Centers.