From the Tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
We are now in the heart of the growing season and I’d like to encourage consumers once again to ask for and buy North Carolina food products at the grocery store, at farmers markets and restaurants.
We are fortunate to live in the fourth most agriculturally diverse state in the country. That simply means that farmers produce a big variety of fruits, vegetables and meats right here so we have plenty of choices to enjoy.
Buying North Carolina products has many benefits, including freshness and high quality. Both have a lot to do with the fact locally grown foods travel shorter distances from the farm to table.
As we have found with a recent salmonella outbreak linked to certain types of tomatoes from Mexico and Florida, food safety and quality are important.
North Carolina tomatoes have not been linked to the salmonella cases, so consumers should feel confident in buying these locally grown fruits. The Food and Drug Administration has placed North Carolina on its list of approved states for tomato sales.
In fact, growers at the State Farmers Market in Raleigh have reported increased sales of tomatoes – a sign consumers are satisfied with the quality of homegrown commodities. This is encouraging news on all fronts and a trend I hope we see continue to grow with all North Carolina commodities.
The Got to Be NC Agriculture marketing campaign is producing results for farmers, food businesses and consumers. Our retail partners are seeing increases in sales of North Carolina products, and some stores are beginning to stock even more local products.
Many restaurants are getting in on this buy/eat local movement, too. In fact, our department hosts the Goodness Grows in North Carolina Best Dish Contest each year where restaurants compete for bragging rights and top honors by creating great tasting dishes featuring local foods. There are participating restaurants from the mountains to the coast, featuring fine dining to casual atmospheres.
Sixteen restaurants have been selected as finalists in the 2008 Best Dish Contest. They will be featuring special dishes showcasing North Carolina foods throughout the summer. Judges will visit each restaurant and sample the dishes to determine a winner in each category. The winners will be announced later this year.
If you are interested in trying any of these for yourself, you can go to www.ncagr.com/markets/gginc/bestdish/ to find out more about the restaurants and featured dishes.
Farmers markets are also great places to buy local, and the season is getting into full swing for markets across the state. Many markets plan special events and activities that allow you to sample some of the delicious commodities available. It’s a great way to help you decide which variety of peaches or corn you prefer, and it also lets you see just how fresh the fruits and vegetables are. When you want the best, it’s Got to Be NC Agriculture.