30 July/August 2014
year so we didn’t have the grass that we
would normally have,” Johnny Rogers said.
While weather can throw up huge hurdles, long-running economic trends have
to be considered, too. The agricultural
industry was forever reshaped in the 20th
century — new technologies improved
production and efficiency. Over time,
corporate-owned mega-farms supplanted
individual, family-owned operations.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture
reported that the number of farms in the
state tumbled from 301,000 in 1950 to
fewer than 60,000 in 2000. North Carolina is one of the leading losers of farms.
This transformation means it is harder to
find small farmers with the products that
Carolina Dining is looking for.
Critics of large-scale industrial farming
complain that the system is an energy-in-tensive one that contributes to global
warming and threatens the land’s long-term vitality. What’s more, it has become
easy, they say, for consumers to forget
about the origin of their food. Grocery
store shelves remain stocked, and produce
maintains its fresh appearance despite being shipped thousands of miles from its
point of origin to the consumer’s plate.
Buying sustainably grown and local
products, advocates argue, fosters deeper
connections between people and what
they eat and keeps money flowing through
the state’s economy. It also is healthier.
Studies have shown that people who shop
at farmers markets tend to eat more fruits
and vegetables. And small farmers tend to
use fewer harmful pesticides and herbicides
than the big guys.
The benefits of buying local, along
with shifting consumer demand, have
CDS aboard the bandwagon. The problem
is that big food service providers historically haven’t been able to find small farmers
who can supply the quantities they need.
That’s where the sustainable food wholesaler comes in.
“What’s changed is that there are
wholesalers who work with individual
producers and are able to sell larger quan-
tities to purchasers like us,” said Cindy
Shea, director of the UNC sustainability
office. “Wholesalers like that make it easier
for CDS to obtain locally and sustainably
raised food without having the adminis-
trative burden of contracting with each
In some instances, CDS communicated
its desire for more local products to exist-
ing suppliers, knowing they would respond
to keep a big customer happy. For exam-
ple, it told its principal produce distributor,
FreshPoint, that it wanted more fruits and
vegetables from North Carolina farms.
FreshPoint acted by sending its employees
to farmers markets and trade shows.
The new relationships enable Fresh-
Point to grab items when they are in
season. “Zucchini, squash — when it’s in
season, 100 percent of our inventory is lo-
cal,” said Chris Woodring, vice president
of purchasing for FreshPoint’s Raleigh
location, which ships 100,000 to 130,000
pounds of food per day.
The company works with farmers to
overcome regulatory and transportation
hurdles, sending trucks to pick up produce
when farmers don’t have the resources to
haul it themselves. As a result, the compa-
ny has increased local produce purchases
20 percent in each of the past five years.
“The challenge that we’ve got is it’s tough to get produce between Nov. 1 and March 15,” says
Scott Weir, Carolina Dining’s resident district manager. This FreshPoint lettuce comes from
Green Haven Plant Farm in Carthage, about 50 miles from the campus.
Local is Good, Not Easy