Serves You Right

Article Published: Feb. 10, 2011 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Growers and food producers interested in a huge, local food market should plan on attending a meeting that Appalachian State University is organizing on Wednesday, Feb. 23, from 10 a.m. to noon at the Agricultural Conference Center, located at 252 Poplar Grove Road in Boone.

Appalachian Food Services will provide important information for those interested in selling to them, including who to contact, working within the state bid process, pricing, volume of commonly used items and more. Interested growers and producers are encouraged to bring a list of products and predicted seasonal availability of items that ASU could purchase.

From my perspective, there are many issues that still need to be worked through to make purchasing food locally a win-win situation for the university and local food community. The current bidding process is focused heavily on cost. The distributor with the lowest price wins business. The university may need to pay more for locally procured food. Perhaps they could add specific line items, distinguishing local purchases. Our local farms do everything on a smaller scale than large farms and corporations, so it"s difficult to compete with large distributor prices.

The university is accustomed to receiving large volumes of food with one delivery and invoice. Growers will need to unite to have fewer contacts communicating during the bidding, delivery, and billing process.

According to a report published spring 2010, "A Sustainable Food System at ASU," they are striving to be at the national forefront of sustainable campuses. Their definition of local food emphasizes environmentally and socially sustainable food choices, produced within a 250-mile radius. Integrating local food in campus dining will present myriad benefits, including:

" Local Economy a?" Help develop a stronger local economy, build partnerships, create jobs, and provide a market for local farmers.

" Social a?" provide healthy high quality food choices, and satisfy a growing demand for food produced with human and animal welfare in mind.

" Environmental a?" Reduce ASU"s environmental impact (carbon footprint, chemical usage, etc.)

" Sustainability a?" Support ASU"s strategic commitment to the principles of sustainability, while educating the community on its benefits and practicality.

Just like the rest of the country, Watauga County has lost farmland in recent years. In 2002, there were 731 farms in the county, and that number decreased to 587 in 2007. As long as our bellies are full, most of us never think about this trend. But food is a product that should not be made in China. For our own food security and health, we must re-establish localized systems.

Even if food is grown in the U.S.A., it often comes from arid regions that rely heavily on irrigation. The rate of groundwater withdrawal exceeds recharge rates in major agricultural regions. What will we do when there is no longer groundwater available for irrigation?

Modern agriculture and the food system as a whole have developed a strong dependence on fossil energy. Given the fact that most of our oil is imported, our food prices and security rely on other countries. Bad idea, in my opinion.

ASU purchasing from local sources is a step in the right direction. If growers have a large guaranteed market, more local farms will be sustained. Maybe this social consciousness will become contagious, and hospitals, public schools and more restaurants will want high quality, local products. Since food is purchased by everyone, we are all capable of stimulating our local economy.

Not so long ago, local families grew most all of their own food. They preserved and stored food in root cellars for winter. Some even dug holes and stored cabbage in the ground with potatoes.
Here is simple one-dish cabbage recipe that takes about 30 minutes to prepare.

Fiesta Cabbage

1 pound lean sausage, sliced into A1/4-inch-thick slices (I use lean chicken sausage.)
1 medium-size onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium-size cabbage (about 2 A1/2 pounds), chopped into bite-size pieces
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 teaspoon salt
A1/2 teaspoon pepper

Saute sausage in a large skillet over medium heat until browned. If really lean, you will need to spray skillet or use a small amount of olive oil. Remove sausage and set aside.
Saute onion in olive oil over medium heat 3 minutes. Turn heat to medium low. Stir in cabbage; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes or until tender.
Stir in cooked sausage, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Cook until thoroughly heated.

Margie Mansure, M.S., R.D. is a registered dietitian/nutritionist and extension agent with N.C. Cooperative Extension. She offers personalized classes to improve the health of citizens in Watauga County through worksites, schools and community groups and is the local food coordinator for Watauga County. To contact Margie, e-mail or call (828) 264-3061.

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