On a Mission to Make Healthy, Local Food Affordable and Accessible

Kate and Lindsey 2

Photo by Jeff Janacek of DreamPop Media

CFSA’s mission is to help people in the Carolinas grow and eat local, organic food.  We have a proven track record of training farmers to grow organically, increasing access to high-value markets for small-scale farms, and advocating for farm and food policy reform.  But, we realized that an important piece of the seed-to-plate puzzle was missing: In many parts of NC and SC, the local food infrastructure was lacking or inadequate to handle demand.  In other words, we’ve helped train farmers to grow and raise local, sustainable produce and meats, but facilities for aggregation, processing, distribution, and transportation to get those ingredients from farm to fork were few and far between.


To bridge this gap, late last year CFSA launched an exciting new Food Project Consulting initiative whose goal is to build and strengthen sustainable community food infrastructure in the Carolinas.  We selected eight innovative and exciting food projects –four in North Carolina and four in South Carolina–to provide with consulting and technical services this year. Our team will work one-on-one with each project in order to launch and develop their sustainable food businesses.


We’re excited to introduce you to these projects and the passionate people behind them.  For our first feature, we’d like you to meet Lindsey Barrow, Jr. and Kate Dewitt, founders of Lowcountry Street Grocery in Charleston, SC.  Lowcountry Street Grocery (LSG) is a mission-driven, mobile farmers’ market designed to make healthy, local food affordable and accessible to all Charleston residents. The mobile market’s operations and sales will take place aboard a classic retrofitted school bus that will travel across the Lowcountry. Sourcing from their own farms, a small farms’ cooperative, and from local businesses, they will bring high-demand, healthy, local food directly to their patrons’ neighborhoods. CFSA recently sat down with this dynamic duo, to learn more about Lowcountry Street Grocery and the inspiring vision they have for bringing healthy, local food to Charleston’s food deserts.


CFSA:  Tell us about Lowcountry Street Grocery.  How did the idea for the business come about?

LSG:   Lowcountry Street Grocery’s mission is to provide and sustain healthy food access in Charleston’s food deserts by bolstering and leveraging our local food economy. Our model is founded on the principle that utilizing traditional business tools can create a more synergistic and sustainable way to make necessary change and do good. We will reinvest revenue generated from sales in affluent markets and local restaurants in order to sustain an affordable pricing strategy in the communities that need it the most. In this way, our mobile market will reach the communities that would otherwise remain underserved, while continuing to foster the connections between producer and consumer that are so essential to a thriving local food economy.


CFSA:  What characteristics of the Lowcountry make it a great place to start LSG?
Obviously, the Lowcountry offers an agricultural diversity and abundance that is ideal for this type of initiative. We have so many small, young, and beginning farmers in town, in addition to long-standing agricultural landmarks like Ambrose Family Farm and Joseph Fields. There is a high-demand for home grown, farm-fresh, local produce that comes naturally for the people who live here.

But more than that, there is an interesting paradox in Charleston that inspired the concept for LSG. We have been rated the number one tourist destination in the country for several years in a row. Downtown is home to nationally recognized, award-winning chefs and restaurants, the most popular of which source from farms right here in the Lowcountry. And yet, just two miles outside of downtown, children are living farther below the poverty line than anywhere else in the state. Charleston has many food deserts, and many families that experience low-to-no access to healthy affordable food, despite the abundance that our area offers in terms of healthy, local food.  According to estimates by the USDA, approximately 20,000 of our neighbors here in Charleston fit this definition.  The existence of food insecurity in Charleston is a problem of access, not availability. That’s why we think our model is so perfect for the needs of our community: It’s a way of taking what IS working within our local food economy, and simply extending it to begin investing in healthy food access for the communities that need it the most. It’s about making the concept of “local” work for ALL locals.


CFSA:  Why are you passionate about using local, sustainable foods as part of your business plan?  How do you plan to work with local farmers and artisans?
This is at the heart of everything we are designed to do. We are growing our own food in our fields at Rebellion Farm, and our bus will be stocked by other local farmers, artisans and small businesses that keep our local economy alive.

We believe that the solution to food insecurity can and should be “home grown.” Returning to a way of eating that makes use of the land around us is both holistically and pragmatically the best way to generate long-term change in underserved communities. Everything about our model is about investing in those around us–from small farms to families in need. Sustainable business and sustainable food are one in the same in our philosophy: In the same way that we don’t believe in pulling something from the earth without the ability to replenish it, we also don’t believe in solutions that fail to reinvest in a local economy and the people who make it up.


CFSA:  What are your goals for LSG and where do you see it in 5 years? How can CFSA help you get there?

LSG:  Our overarching goal is to provide a sustainable, long-term solution to healthy food access in underserved communities. To achieve this, our growth model includes expanding across the southeast region – bringing the mobile market approach to additional urban and rural localities. This also obviously includes expanding our fleet, initially through the addition of a second bus so that we can maximize our service to the Lowcountry area. Down the road, we also hope to acquire company-owned farmland as well as a storefront.


As a new CFSA food systems consulting project, we are excited to learn from the CFSA team’s expertise in order to bolster our production and operation strategies. CFSA’s support will be essential in our initial launch – as we gather live market data and experience. We know that with the help of partners like CFSA, we will be able to streamline and perfect our production, inventory, and marketing procedures – ultimately learning how to maximize the opportunities we seek to create for local farmers and businesses. Finally, we look forward to CFSA’s consultation on our continued efforts to incorporate sustainable and organic practices in our fields, and in sharing that knowledge with members of our small farm co-op.


CFSA:  How will you define long-term success?

LSG:  As a community health initiative, our ultimate metric for success is the health and wellness of the communities we serve. We aim to affect real, systemic changes in community health over time by changing the way that healthy, local food is distributed for purchase.


Long-term success for LSG will also involves sustaining our hybrid business over time, and continuing to provide creative, innovative opportunities and marketing channels for small farmers and businesses in the Lowcountry. If we are successful, our mobile market will become a staple in our thriving local food economy and a catalyst for improved small farm vitality and viability.


CFSA:  In addition to LSG, what are your thoughts on how we can grow local and organic foods in the Carolinas?

LSG:  From our perspective, one of the most important factors is and will continue to be the sharing of knowledge and best practices. We love our community of farmers here in Charleston, which is made up of many beginning farmers – and we love learning from one another. Collaborative efforts, like workshops, town halls, and seminars, can go a long way toward making local and organic production a reality – especially for those who are just beginning.


The establishment of additional food hubs will also be integral to increasing local and organic production. We need more food hubs that are designed to cater to small farms, and that help them overcome the obstacles they often face in reaching the markets they need to become viable and sustainable as businesses.


CFSA:  Is there anything else that you would like CFSA’s members to know about LSG?

LSG: Recognizing that a providing a point-of-sale is just the beginning to what healthy food access can mean for a community, our mobile market will also deliver free nutrition education and programming. These programs will be provided in partnership with a number of community organizations that have joined us as allies in our fight against food insecurity in the Lowcountry, including Slow Food Charleston, Lowcountry Food Bank, and Whole Foods Market and will feature:

  • Healthy Meal Kits & Recipes
  • Food Storage, Preparation, and Cooking Demonstrations
  • Nutrition Information
  • Corner Store Restock Initiative
  • School Gardens, Mobile Gardens, and At-Home Garden Starter Kits

Learn more about Lowcountry Street Grocery and “like” their Facebook page!