An Optimistic Outlook: A Conversation With Aaron Moore
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Aaron Moore serves as the Union County Agriculture and Small Farms Agent where he works with people who grow food for a variety of uses. His role allows him to work with his community members bridging agriculture as a business and agriculture as a lifestyle. One day you may find him at a community garden teaching community members gardening skills, and the next day you’d find him in the field with mushroom farmers teaching new production practices and helping them better their practices. The diversity in people he gets to work with and in the production practices he teaches, as well as all that he learns from the people he works with are why Aaron loves doing the work he does. He and the staff at the Union County Cooperative Extension office are team-oriented in their local food work and like many other Local Food Coordinators across the state have a goal to better the food system for their community.
Aaron’s Local Food Landscape
“Union County is situated between the hustle and bustle of Charlotte city life and open stretches of farmland, providing a unique landscape to explore and enjoy,” (Union County Local Foods & Products). With a mix of high-producing agriculture and a growing population transitioning into a more urban county, this shifts the focus of local foods toward the importance of land preservation, new and continuing farming, challenges with farming in urban areas, and sustainable agriculture, all while working with county government and the public to spread the importance of agriculture for their communities. “Union County offers a wide variety of local farm fresh meats, fruits, vegetables, and artisan goods from our abundance of production farms. This blend fosters a community of local farms and businesses that work together to bring the highest quality products and experiences available,” (Union County Local Foods & Products).
Aaron’s Primary Projects & Programs
Most of Aaron’s work involves programming around production techniques. One of his favorite workshops so far has been the Caterpillar High Tunnel construction workshop where he teaches new skills and resources to local farmers. For this workshop, Aaron purchased a caterpillar tunnel kit from Farmers Friend with funds from an innovation grant and held a hands-on building workshop with the farmers. On the day of the workshop they actually built and took down the high tunnel. Aaron said small farmers may not know about high tunnels or ever get the chance to do it hands-on so they can see what it would take and what skills are needed so this workshop helps prepare them to build their own.
He and his co-workers also work hard to educate the public on local food topics and the importance of agriculture. They created a Union County Local Foods & Products website that gives information about their county’s local food events, markets, restaurants, and videos that showcase their local farmers and growers. The Union County Farmers Market is run through the Extension Office and they also started a small food hub within the county.
One of their local food programs that allows teamwork within their office and is unique to their county is a seed to table strawberry program with the local middle school. The middle school already had a greenhouse so Extension helped purchase an irrigation system and then got strawberry tips from a local nursery. Aaron taught the kids how to propagate the tips into plugs and they were planted in hanging baskets which were sold in their plant sale! About 400 of the plugs were sent to a local community garden. 4-H provided a curriculum about growing your own food and FCS did taste tests and demos with the students using the strawberries. They are looking forward to expanding the program into two elementary schools and a high school throughout the next year!
Aaron’s Final Thoughts
When asked about the future of local foods in NC, Aaron said he is optimistic. He anticipates that we will see more local foods in everyday life – children will see them taught in their classrooms and used in the cafeteria and out in their school gardens, local food will become more centralized in distribution through food hubs and more community gardens – local food will become “the norm”. And he attributes this to the work that people have done before us and are continuing to do, through funding infrastructure, materials, support, education, and more.
Aaron’s Favorite Place to Buy Local and Favorite Recipes Using Local Food
Aaron grows a lot of his own food at home and is enjoying teaching his kids how to grow food with the help of his wife! They also have a lot of farmer friends that they feel lucky to have direct connections with when looking for local. He said his favorite local food recipe is a simple roast chicken! They butterfly it out, put it in a roasting pan with a rosemary rub on top of potatoes and carrots and it’s a great way to use the whole bird, it feeds the whole family, and most importantly, it’s delicious!