Non profit helping farmers connect with buyers gets visit from USDA

Published: Apr. 18, 2016 at 9:39 PM EDT
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A local non profit working to get local produce on your plate is getting national attention from the USDA.

"We have grown from working with five farmers to more than 80 farmers," said Lisa Turansky, chief conservation officer for Coastal Conservation League.

Coastal Conservation League created GrowFood Carolina five years ago. They've been working ever since to help local farmers get their fresh good to buyers.

"People were wanting this product and not able to connect to it so we facilitate that connection," said Turanksy.

Monday, they hosted United States Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Ed Avalos. USDA grant money has helped with some of the GrowFood Carolina projects and Avalos wanted to see the successful non-profit for himself. Avalos visited a farm involved in the Growfood initiative Monday morning.

"The quality of the produce is really, really impressive and the commitment and hard work put out by the farmer and the whole operation was tremendous. that really stood out to me," said Avalos.

GrowFood Carolina works with over 200 restaurants, as well as schools and grocery stores.

"They've really opened up the door to our ability to buy from local producers," said Frank Lee, head chef at Slightly North of Broad.

Buyers can pick from fresh produce, eggs, dairy, grains, nuts and even honey.

"We also provide a lot of services like marketing, sales, we plan with farmers for their crops so we match supply and demand," said Turansky.

GrowFood farmers deliver the product to the warehouse on Morrison Drive in Downtown Charleston. The goods are stored a refrigerated cooler until it's delivered or the buyer comes to pick it up.

Turansky says the farmer receives around 80 percent of the profit from the sales.

Chef Lee says the program is good for the farmers, restaurants and his customers alike.

"It's just a win - win and people go nuts, they just love it," said Lee.

Growfood organizers say they're hoping to provide their fresh goods to the local hospitals in the future, as well.

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