Census of agriculture documents local food growth

By Walker Miller,  For The Courier

Upstate — The USDA Census of Agriculture, just published in May, and done once every five years, gives a comprehensive view of farming in the U.S. The data guides USDA investment in its programs for farmers. Some of that investment is available to support local infrastructure.

South Carolina put most of the rest of the country to shame with direct sales growth of 116 percent, putting the state in third place in the Southeast behind Virginia and North Carolina. Organic farming nationally was up 82 percent. The Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) in Western N.C. reported that sales of vegetables were up 247 percent and fruits were up 24 percent. Local food is no longer a trend — it is a movement.

In addition to visiting farms directly, local food can be found at the Six Mile Farmers Depot (Old Firehouse) from 4-7 p.m. on Thursdays in Easley on Saturday mornings, Patrick Square in Clemson on Friday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m., in Anderson on Tuesdays from 5 to 8 p.m. in Pendleton 4 to 6 p.m. also on Thursdays, in Greenville on Main Street from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. There are still others. When asked, the farmers will tell you there are more requests to participate in farm markets than they have resources to participate in. The definition of local can be fussy at big box stores, but all these markets have operators, many volunteer, which enforce the rules on food being locally produced.

There is a nexus of food, energy and water. The world is running out of water and by 2030 is project to have a deficit of 40 percent. This deficit is being driven by global warming and economic growth which is based on energy growth. Inadequate water and degraded soils is projected to cause a food crisis. The good news is that the growth of local and sustainably produced food will be important to the western Carolinas and Pickens County.

Farm costs of production were up 28 percent in NC and 31 percent in S.C. Average age of farmers increased by one year and those fewer than 45 years has declined.

According to many, our community’s future food security will depend on local food. It is important and appreciated that local government and consumers have supported local food. Without your support our farmers cannot make a living.