Director, NC Cooperative Extension – New Hanover County Center at the Arboretum
I recently enjoyed “hanging out” with several young adults keen on making sustainability efforts in our local community. Nicknamed “Eco-Warrior” by some of this energetic, pierced and tattooed crowd, I proudly wear the title as a sign of respect for this generation of our future. As an older middle-aged man, I am part of the tail of the great baby boomer generation that was raised and imbued with a fossil fuel extraction economy and harnessed to big box stores. A little rebellious, I am known for my proselytism and my practice of recycling, composting, respecting trees and regenerative ecosystems in landscapes and agriculture. My passion for promoting cyclic systems is part of my identity and also extends to my attitude towards food; I prefer local, fresh and nutrient dense.
We are fortunate in this region, rich in agricultural production, to have fresh and abundant food. A local food hub, Feast Down East is a top internet bookmark for me, with the option to order a weekly box of fresh produce for local pickup (called Consumer Supported Agriculture), a mobile farmer’s market at various locations of town, some favorite local cuisine restaurants and special events.
One event of note for this weekend could serve as a foray into local foods – the ‘Feast for the Fourth’ fundraiser. The fundraiser includes a lunch box hosted by Chef Ben Knight of Benny’s Big Time, as well as specialty items from Chef Dean Neff of Seabird. Most of the ingredients come from local farms and are accompanied by a virtual cooking demonstration from Ben himself. This exclusive seasonal farm-to-fork experience will raise funds to support the group’s fleet of vehicles, essential for delivering farm-fresh produce to restaurants, institutions, schools and our community.
The lunch box contains items from Feast Down East farmers. It includes a main course of ingredients for grilling a grass-fed beef burger with local cherry tomatoes and goat cheese, including shishito peppers and Dean Neff’s grilled salt and pepper pickles. A cereal bowl side dish and blueberry dessert are also prepared by Neff. The drink will be Wilmington Brewing Company’s Taco Life Mexican Style Lager. Order online from the Feast Down East website (https://www.feastdowneast.org/) today; Box pickup takes place July 4 at Benny’s Big Time Pizzeria from 9 a.m. to noon, located at 206 Greenfield St. in Wilmington.
If you already have your July 4th meal plans, consider the weekly Consumer Supported Agriculture via Feast Down East, or shop at a local farmer’s market to start your trip with local foods. Buying locally grown food has many benefits for the consumer, the producer and the community. Full of flavor, locally grown foods are most likely harvested at full maturity within 24 hours of purchase. Eating seasonally will reduce the time and miles your food travels, improving nutritional value. Your money spent with local farmers and producers stays close to you and is reinvested in businesses and services in your community. Supporting local food producers and distribution networks promotes a more secure food supply. And, if you know your farmer, you know your food. Local producers can tell you how the food was grown and harvested – I prefer to know about these practices.
Hope you can consider incorporating local food into your routine; your taste buds and your health will thank you!
Lloyd Singleton is the director of the NC Cooperative Extension – New Hanover County center at the Arboretum, 6206 Oleander Drive, Wilmington NC, 28403. He can be reached at [email protected] or 910-798-7660.