Embracing “LOCAL”: A Conversation With Tanya Lamo
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Picture this – it’s a sunny fall morning and the temperatures are getting cooler. You start your stroll through the farmers market smelling the fresh scent of breads and baked goods, getting inspired by the produce that’s currently in season, stocking up on local meats and eggs, and admiring the local art on display – it’s the perfect morning for Tanya Lamo, Dare County Extension Director and Horticulture Agent. “After taking in the sights and sounds of the market, I enjoy a delicious lunch at one of the many restaurants that source their ingredients locally. There isn’t a much better way to start a day before heading to the beach for the afternoon enjoying the best that Dare County has to offer,” she shared.
Tanya loves serving her community through local food system work. Serving as both the County Extension Director (CED) and Horticulture Agent allows Tanya to connect and partner with a variety of county organizations in a vibrant and unique landscape all sharing similar goals. In her role as CED, Tanya’s goal is to implement and participate in projects that increase community development, build sustainable tourism practices, and work towards creating dynamic and energetic spaces in Dare County. As a Horticulture Agent, she engages with a large group of exceptional NC State Extension Master Gardener℠ (EMG) Volunteers who assist in educating residents and visitors about growing and gardening in the Outer Banks.
Dare County is approximately 800 square miles with less than half of that actually being land. Located in the Northeast District, Dare County is part of the Outer Banks, a string of barrier islands spanning 120 miles from Virginia’s border to Ocracoke Island. “Tourism is the number one industry of the Outer Banks with more than 5 million visitors each year,” (Outer Banks Chamber of Commerce). Growing crops in Dare County is limited but a few small-scale producers work to provide locally grown food to the residents and many sell at local farmers markets and restaurants. With almost half of the county being ocean, they of course have a thriving seafood industry that supplies many local eateries with fresh catch seafood.This year, Tanya’s favorite project has been a series called “LOCAL”, highlighting topics around growing locally with a focus on coastal, native, vegetable, and community gardens, in an effort to spotlight the richness of Dare County. The series introduces the community to local farmers, fishermen, artists, and entrepreneurs while sharing ways to preserve and prepare local produce and seafood and how to find local producers and events. “Every other month our gifted writer and administrative assistant, Kim Armstrong interviews a local entrepreneur, farmer, fisherman, or long-standing community member and weaves their story into a beautiful article that highlights their unique journey,” Tanya shared. The LOCAL series has been a fun and exciting way to engage with the community and support and collaborate programming efforts fostering a healthy local food system and Tanya says this project could easily be replicated in other counties,
“It is robust in the sense that it has a great ripple effect and impact across our county. It informs tourists of the unique area they are visiting, it encourages and supports entrepreneurship and shares wonderful experiences of small business owners, along with highlighting pillars in the community who have helped form and shape what our county is today. It checks every box that plays into the intricate web of local foods from community, agriculture, entrepreneurship, education, tourism, tenacity, and creativity.”
Other components of this series include a “LOCAL 4-H Club” for youth, and an EMG Volunteer partnership with the library to create a seed library encouraging residents to grow local produce and native plants. The EMG Volunteer Speakers Bureau has conducted several seed focused programs to help the community understand seed propagation, harvesting and saving.
The Coastal Food Policy Council was also formed this year, an effort among counties in the Northeast District, which encouraged the adoption of proclamations in several Northeast counties to name the second full week of June each year, “Local Foods Week”! Foods popular to the coast were highlighted during the week and gave the counties a chance to educate the public and encourage the consumption of locally grown or caught food!
Although growing food in Dare County can be challenging due to limited farmland and coastal gardening challenges, Tanya feels inspired seeing how continuing education and connecting with experts can make it possible.
“With Extension’s efforts to learn from those who have succeeded and share research-based education to the community, the future looks bright for local food production in Dare County,” Tanya shared.