Providing Tourists a Taste of NC Through Vacationer Supported Agriculture (VSA)
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The Vacationer Support Agriculture (VSA) program was developed by specialists from NC State Extension and Tourism Extension with the goal of the program to coordinate the sale of weekly produce bags to vacationers over the summer tourism season. The project aims to “connect small farmers with new opportunities to increase farm revenue through direct sales of fresh produce,” (Vacationer Supported Agriculture, Jackie Murphy Miller). Through a partnership between NC State Extension and local farmers, local produce is grown, packaged, and delivered to pick-up locations convenient to the vacationers.
There are many pieces that make the VSA program work. Vacationers tend to be interested in connecting with the area they are visiting and can do that by buying local. The vacationers learn about the opportunity through local realty companies which allows the realities to “showcase their commitment to the sustainable and equitable development of their local communities by recommending the produce bags to their guests”.
VSAs allow farmers to decide how many farm shares they want to sell and renters pre-buy a week fraction of those shares. Farmers have proven to be very successful in this program thus far providing high-quality products that are sent to an aggregator that packages and transports them to local destinations. Aggregators vary from nonprofit local food organizations to small and medium-scale farmers. “The trust among members of the VSA growers groups has been steadily growing. Grower groups with a longer history of VSA participation mentor newer groups regarding how to prevent spoilage during the hot summer delivery months, how to plan for adequate and diverse supply of produce, and how to build programming for greater community impacts,” (VSA 2021 Season Report).
You can read the VSA 2021 Season Report online.
“The VSA program has been both regionally and nationally recognized as an innovative approach to direct-to-consumer farm sales,” (Vacationer Supported Agriculture Expands to New Locations, Becky Bowen). For more information about VSA contact Program Director Becky Bowen, firstname.lastname@example.org.
VSAs are currently in 15 destinations across Brunswick beaches, Topsail Island, the Crystal Coast, Ocracoke Island, and the Smoky Mountains. To see 2022 VSA locations and to order a VSA bag, visit the P1Provisions website.