'Vacation Veggies' program is a Vacationer Supported Agriculture venture that aims to connect farmers in New Hanover, Pender, and Sampson Counties with new customers.
As schools let out and graduation ceremonies descend upon us here in coastal Carolina, it is very evident that summer is here. With summer comes the usual flock of tourists and vacationers to area beaches, and their influx of business to local shops and restaurants alike. However, should these be the only places that get to see increased business and sales due to vacationers?
This summer the N.C. Cooperative Extension New Hanover Center at the Arboretum is working closely with farmers from the Wilmington Farmers Market at Tidal Creek to bring a new service to vacationers on Wrightsville Beach. With the catchy name “Vacation Veggies”, the program is a Vacationer Supported Agriculture venture that aims to connect farmers in New Hanover, Pender, and Sampson Counties with new customers. Vacationers can order a bag of fresh, locally sourced produce for their arrival at https://www.forktofarmer.com/wb-vacationveggies.
Vacation Veggies is actually part of a larger project being conducted at North Carolina State University called “Fork to Farmer.” We are currently working with farmers from the Wilmington Farmers Market at Tidal Creek, including: Kyle Stenersen of Humble Roots Farm, Morgan Milne of Red Beard Farm, and Stefan Hartmann of Black River Organic Farm. Luckily, I have had the opportunity to visit all three of these farms and have seen the amazing operations they are running. What I have found is that these farmers care for the land they work on as much as they care about the crops that they reap from it. Proudly serving their local communities, they all care for each other and see farming more as a shared interest rather than as a competition.
Stefan Hartmann is based out of Ivanhoe, in Sampson County. He was hit very badly by both Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Florence. Coming into this growing season, he didn’t have anywhere to start his tomatoes as his greenhouses were badly damaged. Rather than letting Stefan carry the problem on his own, Kyle Stenerson made room at his farm to start Stefan’s tomatoes, allowing Stefan to get his greenhouses fixed in order to house them. Now, they are both off to great growing seasons. At the same time, Stefan is always offering help and advice to Morgan on how to grow organically and sustainably. With Stefan having been a farmer for over 30 years, he is always open to answer any questions Morgan may have, assisting in a successful operation with sustainable and beautiful crops.
Supporting local agriculture is a major reason we are running this program. We are proud and beyond grateful to have such great and caring farmers in our local area, so we want to showcase the hard work they are doing in the bags we prepare. Even if you aren’t a vacationer, you can still support them by either buying into their Community Supported Agriculture Programs, or by coming and visiting them at the Wilmington Farmers Market at Tidal Creek on Saturday mornings. Who knows, if you get to know them well enough they might even let you come and help on their farms! When I went and met with Morgan, we ended up working and talking, picking carrots and cabbage as we got to know each other. I know it helped him out, but it helped me even more to feel connected to a community I am new to, and to appreciate the hard work farmers do every day.
We are open to volunteers to help pack and distribute bags on Saturday mornings; contact me if you would like to help.
The Arboretum is free and open every day during daylight.
Lucas Seijo, NCSU Cooperative Extension Student Intern, can be reached at 910-798-7660 or firstname.lastname@example.org.