Supporting Local Farmers and Embracing Agriculture: A Conversation With Shelby Carroll

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Shelby Carroll HeadshotShelby Carroll serves as the Rowan County Agriculture & Natural Resource Extension Agent where she assists in the creation of community gardens, works with farmers in produce production and educates the public on current farming practices. While only in her role for less than a year now, she is already making big impacts in her local food system and loves working in the agriculture field. She shared how fascinating she finds it and that it offers endless opportunities for growth and learning. “The beauty of agriculture lies in its ability to connect us to the earth and provide for our communities,” Shelby said. She went on to say how rewarding it is to see individuals from a variety of backgrounds come together to learn about sustainable farming practices and to work towards a common goal of producing food. “Embracing agriculture, regardless of our upbringing, allows us to appreciate the importance of stewardship. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my knowledge and passion for agriculture with others who share the same drive and enthusiasm for this vital industry.” 

Rowan County has a unique local food landscape with lots of diversity in production. Shelby has had the opportunity to assist farmers in navigating the local food landscape more effectively through community events like farmers markets and food festivals to provide a platform for showcasing products and connecting with potential customers. 

Rowan County Donation Station

A farmers market program that Shelby has recently started is the Donation Station. Donation Stations allow her to support local farmers while also providing fresh, local food to food insecure individuals in her community. Shelby shared that this program allows the public to see first hand the impact they are making and that the donations collected truly make a difference to people who don’t have the opportunity to shop at the market. “We take things like that for granted, something as simple as providing fresh and local produce for your family. Getting to see the generosity and kindness of others is heartwarming. The Donation Station is truly something special. I feel grateful to be a part of such a meaningful event that brings out the best in everyone and I encourage every county to look into partnering with the Donation Station,” she said. Donation Stations seek to improve access to fresh, locally-grown food while supporting the farmers who grow it. Using a simple farmers market-based approach, volunteers collect food and monetary donations from farmers market shoppers, buy directly from farmers at the market, and donate the resulting food to a local hunger relief agency. Donation Stations are a collaboration between the NC State Extension Master Food Volunteer (EMFV) Program, N.C. Cooperative Extension’s Local Food Program Team, NC Steps to Health, and Farmer Foodshare (a NC non-profit organization). Since launching statewide in 2022, Donation Stations have collected and spent over $11,000 with local farmers and donated over 10,000 pounds of produce to food insecure communities. Currently, Donation Stations can be found in 19 counties across the state. Map of Counties Involved and TotalsRowan County’s first Donation Station event was a great success, collecting 115 pounds of local produce in just 3 hours! Shelby shared that despite initial concerns about the weather, the community showed up in full force, generously donating and engaging in meaningful conversations. Shelby partnered with the farmers market manager, farmers, Extension staff, and a local food insecurity organization that she is a member of called Rowan Food and Farms Network. This organization helps connect public and private stakeholders to support and promote a robust local, sustainable food system by educating citizens about healthy food choices, providing networking opportunities for vendors, consumers, farmers, and community agencies, and developing strategies to reduce food insecurity and increase food access. The Donation Station program was a great fit for all of the partners involved.

When asked about the future of local food in North Carolina, Shelby envisions an increased focus on sustainable farming practices, greater support for small-scale farmers, and a growing demand for locally sourced products. She is also hopeful about continued collaboration among farmers, restaurants, and consumers that will promote and celebrate local food. Rowan County specifically has a huge diversity in local foods and Shelby loves to use the fresh, local produce and meats in recipes. One of her favorites is her sheet pan chicken fajitas! “I like to use fresh cilantro from my garden, homemade salsa with fresh garden ingredients, locally raised chicken, and freshly shredded Ashe County cheese (it’s not from my county but it’s my favorite cheese),” she said. 

Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas


  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 2 Bell Peppers (any color)
  • 1 ½ lbs Chicken Breast or Tenders
  • 1 Yellow or Red Onion
  • 1 Packet of Fajita Seasoning Mix
  • Tortillas
  • Optional Toppings – Shredded Cheese, Avocado, Cilantro, Salsa, Sour Cream, Limes


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F and cover a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. 
  2. Cut the bell peppers and onion into long ¼ inch slices and place them into a large bowl. Toss them with the chicken, olive oil, and fajita seasoning mix until well combined. I also prefer to slice some of the chicken tenders into smaller pieces if they are too large. 
  3. Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through (minimum internal temp 165°), and then turn the broiler on for about 2 minutes to allow the veggies to brown a little. 
  4. During the last 5 minutes of cooking, wrap the tortillas in foil and place them in the oven to warm through. 
  5. Serve in your warm tortillas with any additional toppings that you’d like!