PILOT MOUNTAIN — If this year’s sales are any indication, the word is getting out about the benefits of eating locally-grown fruits and vegetables, officials at Pilot Mountain Pride say.
And things should only get better.
While concrete numbers won’t be available until the first of the year, Pilot Mountain Pride Director Lewis Draughn said Monday that this year has surpassed any in the center’s history.
“Compared to last year, I think we’ve had a very good year,” he said. “Sales seem to be increasing every year, and that’s the main thing.”
And fresh veggie lovers aren’t the only ones benefiting, Draughn said.
“We had a lot of new farmers marketing their product with us this year,” he said. “I don’t know at this point whether I can say dozens of new farmers until we get the final numbers, but there have been a lot of new people selling through us this year.”
Pilot Mountain Pride is a non-profit marketing center owned by the Surry County Economic Development Partnership that focuses on marketing locally-grown produce to both individuals and businesses.
Farmers who participate are certified in GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) by the U.S.D.A. GAP is a food safety program for farmers that helps them minimize risk and problems that could be associated with fresh produce.
When the farmers market their produce through the center, the center keeps about 20 percent of the income generated and returns the rest to the farmer.
And next year there is expected to be even more farmers selling through the center.
“We’re already in the process of getting together another GAP certification class now for new farmers who want to sell through us,” Draughn said.
With new farmers comes new variety, according to the center director.
“We had a lot more variety this year than last,” he said, noting that this past season the center sold eggplants, collard greens and banana peppers for the first time.
And the community, and farmers, welcome the new sales.
“The community is responding and beginning, I think, to understand the value of buying locally-grown vegetables,” he said. “I think people are starting to place a high value on it.”
Which means that a few farms may stay in business, thanks to the new marketing opportunity.
“This is another venue through which they can make money off their land,” Draughn said. “I have one farmer who loves growing produce but hates marketing it. I think a lot of farmers are starting to realize that this is a good, easy way to get a fair price for a product and market it locally.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.