Local agricultural experts and farmers are optimistic that a program to promote locally grown food can now obtain a grant they say will help it flourish.
At Tuesday’s Orange County Board of Commissioners meeting, the board authorized county staff to submit a $148,500 grant proposal to the Golden LEAF Foundation on behalf of the local food branding program Piedmont Grown.
Piedmont Grown was unveiled to the public in June. It certifies and labels farm products grown in the Piedmont region.
Its goal is to increase awareness and access to local farm products to help support small farmers, said Carl Matyac, Orange County extension director.
“It’s really difficult for small farmers to compete in the agricultural industry,” Matyac said.
He said large commodity producers have tried to create regional identities for their products, like “California raisins.” The new program is a chance for local farmers to compete with well-branded products by creating their own identity.
Debbie Roos, agricultural extension agent for Chatham County, said the term “local” is misused by big-time competitors.
“For them ‘local’ means the seven Southern states,” she said.
Piedmont Grown has certified 22 farms, three restaurants, two retail grocers and one artisan food producer in Orange County.