The N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is taking the stories of agriculture directly to consumers and foodies with the help of some social media friends. The department hosted separate farm tours in Eastern and Western North Carolina for bloggers, food writers and photographers, who got a firsthand look at fields, packing houses, processing facilities and markets.
“Many of these bloggers have followings the size of weekly newspapers, and their followers share their interest in local foods,” said Heather Barnes, a marketing specialist for the department and a blogger herself. “By sharing the hard work that goes into agriculture with them, we can share the story of North Carolina agriculture with even more people – many who have never set foot on a farm.”
Bloggers tour Apple Wedge Packers in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Photo credit: Stacey Sprenz.
Barnes helped organize both events, which included stops that highlighted apples, aquaculture, muscadine grapes, jalapeno peppers, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and a goat dairy. The fall tour covered about a dozen farms, food businesses and restaurants in and around Asheville. A similar tour was held in Eastern North Carolina in July.
On the fall tour, the bloggers visited Apple Wedge Packers in Hendersonville, where they learned about the packing line from start to finish. The fifth-generation apple farm grows 12 varieties of apples on 150 acres. Apple Wedge also packs for about 20 growers in Western North Carolina.
Other farm stops included a goat dairy, Christmas tree farm and farm-raised rainbow trout processing facility. Catering to food bloggers, the tour also included stops at several Asheville-area farm-to-table restaurants.
Barnes said the response from bloggers on the tour has been positive, with hundreds of photos, videos and livestreams shared across an array of social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. More blog posts and stories have followed in the weeks after the tour.
“It’s all about making personal connections to our food,” Barnes said. “Since the tour, we’ve seen bloggers post about farms they visited and products from those farms that they’ve since seen in grocery stores and restaurants. It’s great to see people talking about North Carolina agriculture in such a positive and informed way.”
Additional tours are planned for 2017.
NCDA&CS Marketing Division