CFSA Awards 2011

CFSA  Announces 2011 Sustainable Agriculture Awards for  Outstanding Contributions to the Sustainable Local Food Movement

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) has named this year’s  sustainable agriculture award recipients. The awards were announced November 12  and 13 at the 26th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference in Durham,  NC, a gathering of over 1,250 sustainable farmers, agriculture advocates, foodies,  educators, and experts.  These  institutions and individuals have made outstanding contributions to the  sustainable food movement in North and South Carolina and have helped make the  Carolinas one of the fastest growing sustainable agricultural sectors in the  country.

The award  recipients are:

Farmers of the Year,  John and Betty Vollmer, Bunn, NC
(919-496-3076)

In the  early 1990s, John Vollmer, a third-generation tobacco and small grain farmer,  knew that the outlook for tobacco farming was bleak. Moreover, Vollmer had seen  the number of farms dwindle in his area from about 250 in the 1970s to just 30.  He realized that organic production might provide a means to keep the farm  viable.  “My main goal was to keep  the farm in the family for the next generation,” Vollmer said.  So, John completely diversified into  pumpkins, strawberries and organics.   Recently, John and Betty added organic blueberries and they are looking  to expand into more organic varieties.   In addition to organic acreage, they have many improvements to soil  quality, PH and water holding capacity by using compost and cover crops in  their non-organic fields. Now that the family has grown, John’s goal has been  realized; the 4th and 5th generations are helping sustain the farm!  John has shared his inspiring story of how  diversifying with organics saved his farm with conventional farmers, elected  officials and the public and is one of the most respected and influential  organic farmers in the region. John and Betty are honored for their important  contribution to organic agriculture in the Carolinas.

Young Farmers of the Year,  Jamie and Amy Ager, Fairview, NC
(828-628-1027)

Jamie  and Amy Ager are part owners of Hickory Nut Gap Farm and operate Hickory Nut  Gap Meats, the brand under which they market meat sales from the farm. The six  children of James and Elspeth Clarke jointly own the land of Hickory Nut Gap  Farm and in 2008 the land was put into a conservation easement with the  Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy. Protected for eternity, the land  will be preserved as farmland and managed by the family.  Both Jamie and Amy are graduates of Warren  Wilson College and they have three eager boys who enjoy moving cows and feeding  baby chicks.  Jamie has spent the past  few years revitalizing the farm’s pastures and hayfields by developing an  intensive rotational grazing system that keeps the livestock out of the creeks  and springs.  Amy focuses on the  marketing and accounting aspects of the farm while working out in the field as  much as possible. Jaime and Amy are recognized for their outstanding commitment  to sustainable livestock management and land conservation, as well as for providing  an inspiring model for young farmers to imitate.

Business of the Year, Eastern Carolina Organics (ECO), Pittsboro,  NC
(919-542-3264)

Born as a project of the Carolina Farm Stewardship  Association in 2004, ECO markets and distributes wholesale Carolina organic  farm produce to retailers, restaurants and buying clubs.  ECO is completely farmer owned; 80 percent of  their sales go right back to the growers.  ECO’s customers get fresh organic veggies and  fruits, along with the knowledge that they’re enabling farmers to protect their  family land.   ECO allows participating  organic growers to profitably sell their products and supports efforts to  improve production and packaging techniques. By pooling diverse harvests from  several regions, they have been able to meet the demand for a steady stream of  high quality, seasonal food choices throughout the year. ECO’s mission also  includes community education about the importance of choosing local and organic  produce and helping conventional growers enter the expanding organic market,  including assistance in the transition to organic farming.  ECO is honored for their commitment to  helping sustainable family farms thrive in the Carolinas.

Institution of the Year,  Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Mineral, VA
(540-894-9480)

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange (SESE)  offers more than 700 varieties of vegetable, flower, herb, grain and cover crop  seeds. They emphasize varieties that perform well in the Mid-Atlantic and  Southeast and are specifically adapted to organic conditions.  Part of the SESE’s mission is to promote seed  saving and traditional plant breeding.  According  to SESE’s Ira Wallace, “We believe that preserving unusual heirloom varieties  helps to preserve and promote that other endangered breed – the American small  farm.”  They are honored as institution  of the year in recognition of their important work to provide a variety of seed  saving equipment, as well as seed saving resources in their books and DVDs, to the  agricultural community.

Activist of the Year,  Janette Wesley, Greenville, SC (janettewwesley@yahoo.com)  –  A  Greenville, SC native, Janette Wesley serves as Convivium Leader of the Slow  Food Upstate chapter.  With Janette at  the helm, this active chapter has accomplished much to, as Janette puts it, “create  a space for the ‘feasting and living together’  of those seeking and providing sustenance that is ‘better, cleaner, and fairer’  in Greenville  and the Upstate.  The group founded one of the country’s first  Earth Markets, or farmers’ markets that have  been established according to guidelines of the Slow Food philosophy of Good  Clean and Fair. These community-run markets are important social meeting  points, where local producers offer healthy, quality food directly to consumers  at fair prices and guarantee environmentally sustainable methods.  The chapter hosts dinners, events, and  workshops throughout the year to support four community grants: Slow Food in  School; Slow Food on Campus; The Ark of Taste and RAFT (Renewing America’s Food  Traditions).  Janette is being honored  with this award for her tireless efforts to grow grassroots support for fair  farm and food policies that affect the Upstate.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Agent of the Year, Paige Burns, Richmond County
(910-997-8255)

Since embarking on her Extension  career in 2008, Paige Burns has worked with energy and enthusiasm to help  farmers struggling to adjust to shifting markets.  In addition to serving as the local food  coordinator in her role as Extension agent, Paige also worked to establish a  Voluntary Agriculture District program in Richmond County. She has worked with  both farmers and gardeners to make practical application of organic and  sustainable practices appropriate for the Sandhills region and, together with fellow  Extension Agent, Taylor Williams, she created an organic gardening curriculum  to teach sustainable soil and pest management practices. Paige also worked with  adjacent counties to launch the Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative, a food hub  centered in Carthage, NC, and has worked tirelessly to promote the local food  movement in the area. She teamed up with other area agents to host the first  local food conference in Hamlet, NC. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Paige  is that she has managed to do all of this while serving as interim County  Extension Director for Richmond County.

South Carolina Cooperative Extension Agent of the Year, Blake Lanford, Horry County
(843-365-6715  Ext. 115)

In his role as the Regional Economic Community Development agent,  Blake Lanford has worked extensively to promote agritourism throughout SC.  Agritourism refers to activities that may be  pursued both on and off the farm to supplement traditional production processes  and reconnect with the consumer public.  This  type of business is of growing importance to small farm enterprises throughout  the state. Typically, cooperative organization, marketing and training related  to activities of agritourism have been limited in the Pee Dee region of SC, but  Blake has helped to change that with the implementation of the Pee Dee  Agritourism Passport program. The program incorporates Google Maps to enable  residents and visitors to use the Internet to locate on-farm lodging, produce  stands and other agriculture related businesses.  Also, a printed version of the map that folds  to the size of a passport has been made available at area chambers of commerce,  convention and visitor bureaus and welcome centers. The program is integrated  with S.C. MarketMaker, a program managed by Clemson University that helps  agriculture and seafood industries to reach new markets. Together, these two  programs now connect all elements of the food chain – from farmers and  fisherman to processors and distributors.

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA) is a 32-year-old  non-profit network of over 2,300 members that helps people in the Carolinas grow and eat local, organic foods by  advocating for fair farm and food policies, building the systems family farms  need to thrive, and educating communities about local, organic farming.

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The 2012 Sustainable Agriculture Conference was sponsored by: Live Oak Farms,  NC SARE, Santa Fe Natural Tobacco Co., the USDA’s National Institute for Food  and Agriculture and the National Center for Appropriate Technology. 

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