It’s been a busy summer so far! I’m currently working on three ongoing projects, a consumer survey, wholesale guide for restaurants and a weekly pop-up farmers market at Eastman Chemical.
The Consumer Survey has received over 300 responses from northeast TN and Southwest VA respondents. Our intern, Brenna Fouts, went to several farmers markets in the region and collected email addresses from customers. We also shared it widely on the social media and had an article run in the Bristol Herald & Tribune. The survey contained questions about people’s shopping habits, how easy it was to buy local, and their perceptions about local food versus non-local. I’ll be able to let my data-geek out of the box soon and analyze the results for a report. The findings will be used by local non-profits help promote local food to a wider audience in the region.
The Local Food Wholesale Guide is another fun project I get to work on. The funding to produce the guide is coming from the Tennessee Dept of Ag TEAP grant, which also helped us put on the Buyer/Producer Mixers earlier this year. The goal of the guide is help connect farmers with area restaurants and grocery stores. Local food is becoming trendy here in Central Appalachia, but farmers might not know which restaurants to approach and restaurants might not know how to get in touch with farmers. We hope the guide will help facilitate many new business relationships! I recently spoke with a very talented local graphic designer, Suzie Kelley, about creating a cover and template for our listings. Now it’s just a matter of compiling all the content and getting it printed. I’m excited to reach this step!
My final summer project has been working with Rooted In Appalachia to start a pop-up farmers market on Thursday afternoons at Eastman Chemical. Eastman employs around 7,500 people and they are self-insured. We are working with their Wellness Coordinator to promote eating fresh, local produce. Each week we come with bushels of beans, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, squash and whatever else is in season. We also hand out recipes with each type of vegetable, which the employees seem to appreciate. A rotating cast of farmers attends with us, giving out free samples of their products. Some weeks have been better than others, but as the market reaches its 6th week, we hope that word is finally spreading and folks are making it a regular stop off before heading home.
Lexy Close is the Local Food Promotion Coordinator for the Appalachian RC&D Council.