Promoting and Supporting Local Independent Farms in South Carolina

From foodtank.com, by Clare Algozin
Promoting and Supporting Local Independent Farms in South Carolina

Lowcountry Local First (LLF) is an advocacy and economic development nonprofit working hard to provide the resources, training, and consumer education necessary for local independent farms to thrive in South Carolina. LLF's Growing New Farmers Program includes a Certificate in Sustainable Agriculture and Apprenticeship, the Dirt Works Incubator Farm, and a Land Matching service.

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Lauren Gellatly, Community Development Director at Lowcountry Local First.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Lauren Gellatly (LG): LLF works collaboratively with many organizations to provide direct farm services for farms at all stages of their operation through monthly workshops, farmer listserv, and networking opportunities.  These programs are providing support for both farmers and food system leaders to ensure our community has robust agricultural businesses as well as individuals equipped to both advocate and support the system throughout the supply chain. To ensure the continued growth in demand for local food, LLF educates the public on the importance of eating local while providing tools for consumers to connect with farmers directly. 

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?

LG: Growing New Farmers is a pioneering new and beginning program for South Carolina that has introduced the first of three programs for aspiring farmers in the state: apprenticeship, incubation, and land-matching. The program has graduated 110 participants to date and its graduates have gone on to run farm operations, launch farmers markets, and create food access based nonprofits. By reaching out to successful models from across the country and stewarding strong partnerships locally, Lowcountry Local First has been able to provide an innovative model for South Carolina.

FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?

LG: As Lowcountry Local First looks to the future, our organization plans to further develop the land-matching component of the Growing New Farmers program to ensure program graduates can overcome the land-access barrier so many new farmers are facing.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

LG: Consumers have an incredible amount of power to shift the food economy one meal at a time to food sourced as close to home as possible - start small and vote with your fork!

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

LG: For those living in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, we encourage you to join as a member. If you are from out-of-state, please follow our social media, let us know if you are coming into Charleston, and please engage us in the conversation by inviting our staff to conferences and policy meetings to share our story. If you are an aspiring farmer or are currently running a new farmer training program, please consider checking out our Growing New Farmers program! 

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