Navigating a New Role in Local Food: A Conversation With Sophie Farlow
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After interning with the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Randolph County Center, Sophie Farlow began serving as the Local Food Systems Agent in Asheboro, NC. Although still somewhat new to Extension starting in July of 2022, Sophie is making great impacts in her community’s local food system. On any given day you might find Sophie connecting consumers and local producers to strengthen the food system and create more market opportunities, working with the food policy council members and key stakeholders in the community to address food access and food insecurity, or connecting limited resource populations to fresh, healthy food options. All-in-all, Sophie loves serving the community she grew up in. “I always knew that I wanted to come back home to give back to the people who gave so much to me and bring about change,” she shared.
Sophie’s Local Food Landscape
Randolph County is one of the largest agricultural counties in the state with many individuals involved in the production, marketing, distribution, and preparation sectors of the local food system supply chain. “Randolph County is known for the North Carolina Zoo so agritourism plays a very important role in farmer’s income,” Sophie shared. The county also boasts six farmers markets, various other market opportunities, and farm-to-table restaurants. Although there are numerous opportunities for supporting local food, lack of transportation is a challenge for some community members. Sophie shared that for some, just getting to a grocery store can be a challenge, much less a farmers market or on-farm store. Addressing these challenges and continuing to foster the local food scene is all part of Sophie’s new role.
Sophie’s Primary Projects & Programs
Sophie’s position with N.C. Cooperative Extension, Randolph County Center is new to the county so she has most recently worked to determine the needs and establish programming that best meets those needs. “I am thankful for the collaboration with fellow agents on programs and value their input as I navigate this new agent position,” she shared.
While still determining what the role will look like long term, she has been involved with making big impacts in other ways. The county will soon have a new Agriculture Education Center – “Farm, Food, and Family Education Center” with a food hub and commercial kitchen which Sophie helped to research and design in a way that will best serve the community. She is also working with various local childcare centers to incorporate local fruits and vegetables into their programs through Farm to Early Care Education. In addition, Sophie serves as the Visit NC Farms App Coordinator for Randolph County and is a member of the Piedmont Triad Food Council which influences policy, promotes collaboration, and strengthens food systems. We asked Sophie to share one of her favorite programs or events and she shared a memory from working at a local childcare center with three and four year olds. Together with her Horticulture Agent, Cody Craddock, they conducted fruit and vegetable taste tests and green bean seed planting. During the taste test, they shared about where seeds are located in the fruit or vegetable, and how they grow. They taught the children about planting the seeds and the steps from seed to harvest. “I recently spoke with the director of the childcare center and she shared how excited the children were that their green beans sprouted and that they would soon be able to plant them outside. Just hearing and seeing the children get excited about aspects of agriculture is a success in and of itself”, Sophie shared.
Sophie’s Final Thoughts
Sophie shared that although she isn’t exactly sure what the future of local foods in NC will look like, she believes it will continue to grow and be a vital and sustainable part of our food system. She hopes that more people will grow to have access to local food and the opportunity to explore all that Randolph County agriculture has to offer. “Local food connects neighbors and community members and that is the true beauty of local food – it fosters the creation of meaningful relationships. I love connecting with so many community members and hearing their stories.”
Sophie’s Favorite Place to Buy Local and Favorite Recipes Using Local Food
Sophie loves to purchase from various markets around the county because she is able to get a variety of local goods and connect with producers all in one stop. Her favorite summer recipes are stewed squash and onions, and tomato pie. “My grandmother made these for me as a child and it is something that will always remind me of her,” she shared.
We are grateful that Sophie is a part of the Local Food work in North Carolina and look forward to the continued successes she will have!