Making Waves in Local Food: A Conversation with Natalie Wayne

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Natalie Wayne serves as the Cooperative Extension Director (CED) for Hyde and Tyrrell Counties, leading Extension staff in developing effective programming and building strong relationships and partnerships within the counties. As a CED, Natalie encourages her staff to develop programs that make an impact on the citizens of their county and then works alongside the staff to see it all come to fruition. 

Natalie Wayne, Hyde & Tyrrell CED

Natalie Wayne, Hyde & Tyrrell CED

Natalie’s Local Food Landscape

Hyde County boasts an abundance of fresh vegetables and fresh seafood. Large scale farmers grow snap beans, sweet corn, potatoes, onions, crabs, shrimp, fish, and oysters, while small scale farmers run vegetable stands with tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, squash, cantaloupe, and watermelon. Agriculture and aquaculture are the largest industries in Hyde County. The land is a rich black color known as the Blacklands, which comes from accumulated organic matter. The blacklands are one of the largest crop producing regions in the state thanks to its rich and nutritious soils. The Pamlico Sound surrounds a majority of the county and is one of the largest sounds on the east coast. 

The Blacklands region covers 8 counties in North Carolina along the Atlantic coastline.

Photo from Farm Flavor

Natalie’s Primary Projects & Programs

Natalie shared that she considers the N.C. Cooperative Extension Hyde County Center the “jack of all trades!” As the CED she also has local food responsibilities so some of her current projects include the Visit NC Farms App in Hyde and Tyrrell, the Hyde County Vacationer Supported Agriculture (VSA) Program, and other community resource development projects for Hyde County. As the two counties in the state with the lowest populations in the state, Tyrrell and Hyde rely heavily on beach and tourism traffic making it a great location for the VSA Program. 

The Hyde County VSA Program is based in Ocracoke Island and is one of Natalie’s favorite and most successful projects! Developed last summer with a local farmer who is now in their second year of the program, vacationers pre-ordered fresh produce and eggs to be delivered to Ocracoke for their vacations. “The farmer worked with other local farmers to fill the produce bags with a variety of local foods, and get them in a cooler and on a ferry over to the island every week,” Natalie explained. “Our local farmer sold out of allotted bag amounts almost every week last summer. This year, the farmer has upped his allotted bag limits and started offering fresh cut flowers and fresh seafood [from local growers].”

A man holds crops while leaning against a tractor.

Thomas Midgette, Hyde County VSA Farmer

Natalie’s Final Thoughts

For Natalie, the future of North Carolina foods is buying local! “N.C. Cooperative Extension has done an outstanding job providing research, programs and training for citizens of NC to participate in, to make sure they can grow, catch, find, cook, preserve and sell local foods,” Natalie stated. 

Natalie’s Favorite Place to Buy Local and Favorite Recipes Using Local Food

Natalie shared how much she loves being able to walk across the road to grab fresh produce from her neighbor’s produce stand (who also happens to participate in the Hyde County VSA Program), Big Pompie’s Produce Stand. She said, “some of the best collards I have ever cooked were from his stand!” June brings another of her favorites – Mattamuskeet Sweet Onions which are sold at Pamlico Shores in Swan Quarter. Her first job as a teenager was grading and packaging these “jewels!” Her favorite way to prepare them is by peeling off the outer layer, coring it, adding butter and beef bullion, and microwaving until the onions are tender. “This is supper for me the night I bring home a bag!”