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Haywood County farms have grown exponentially via the Buy Haywood Market Development Project
North Carolina’s temperate climate has been good for cucumbers
Cucumbers grown in Haywood County have been plentiful this year. “We’ve had a really good year here for cucumbers. Our county is in the very far western part of the state bordering Tennessee. We’re in the mountains and at a fairly high elevation here so our micro-climate is similar to a temperate rainforest,” said Tina Masciarelli, Project Coordinator for Buy Haywood Market Development Project. “Crops that are big and leafy and like a lot of water tend to do pretty well up here. Cucumber is a product that we’ve never had trouble with.”
Varieties flourishing here include small lemon cucumbers, seedless and pickling. A local seed company, Sow True Seed, made a large donation to the local seed library, introducing many new and heirloom varieties of produce such as cukes, tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers and green beans.
Credit: Buy Haywood
The Buy Haywood Market Development Project is a grant-funded initiative that supports Haywood County farmers, locally grown products, farmlands and the preservation of the area’s heritage, which includes over 700 farms (more than 56,000 acres) in Haywood County. “This project has existed since 2007 and was born to connect consumers to Haywood County products and to support the preservation of farmland,” said Masciarelli. Local branded produce and other products are available at large and small grocery chains (Ingles, Buy-Low, Food Lion), something the project worked hard to establish. “Now you go to the supermarket and we’ve got farms within a 100 mile radius that have product in the store. That’s indicative of how the local food movement has progressed.”
Credit: Rachael McIntosh
Masciarelli says there’s been a boom in agrotourism and mom and pop specialty grocery stores that sell upscale, artisan items. “It’s been an incredible opportunity for our farmers to attach a different wholesale price, working with those retailers, as opposed to selling product at a farmer’s market or a roadside stand.” Farmers are also being able to grow their inventory and customer base through the project. To “create ongoing relationships, some farmers are now even growing crops specifically for certain chefs or what will sell in the grocery store,” she said. One hydroponic farm is now growing bib lettuce specifically for Ingles. “Those relationships are doing exactly what we want to see – they’re taking on a life of their own, they’re sustainable.”
Credit: Buy Haywood
The number of operating farms has grown over the last seven years, whereas a lot of the country farmland is shrinking. “We’ve actually seen a growth in the number of farms here in our county which I think is pretty remarkable considering that it is valued at the development price and not the agricultural price,” said Masciarelli. More farms are opening their doors to the public for things like you-pick or creating on-farm markets to sell right on their property. Some growers are also retailing other product from neighbouring farms, creating a nice synergy. “Those little on-farm stands – in such a rural community as ours – become like a corner store. There’s this beautiful cycle of farmers and producers working together.”