Nearly 50,000 farms are spread across North Carolina, according to the state’s Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services. Together, they bring in $76 billion annually. But many are struggling in the midst of an economic shutdown.
It’s currently peak strawberry season in Eastern North Carolina. That’s a problem for Cal Lewis, owner of Lewis Nursery and Farms. The farm -- which includes a “berry picking” and retail location in Wilmington, as well as a wholesale operation in Rocky Point -- produces strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
“If it had impacted us after our harvest season, it'd be a lot less damaging. But it is our harvest season, it is our peak season -- so we're got no choice but to deal with it.”
Lewis says the challenge for farmers has a lot to do with timing. For example, vegetable farms -- which are usually planting this time of year -- are trying to figure out how many crops to plant, as future demand grows increasingly uncertain.
Farms like Lewis’s, that are in the harvesting phase, are picking what they have and hoping the markets will stabilize. Last week, the farm reopened berry picking at its Wilmington location.
Lewis has this advice for shoppers who want to support local agriculture:
“Just to ask their grocery stores and their retailers where they shop to support local and buy local and stuff like that. And also to go to the farmer’s markets and support growers right there at the retail level.”
A comprehensive New Hanover County Guide includes links to area markets, farms, and resources for communities in need.
- The Wilmington Farmers Market at Tidal Creek is now located at Wrightsville Beach Brewing Company. They’re set up every Saturday as a drive-thru market, so you can shop without getting out of your car. You can also email them to sign up for the weekly newsletter listing the farmers and food the current week.
- Some individual farmers are setting up to provide offerings on their own property. Terra Vita Farm is open every weekend. They've also teamed up with two other farms, so at that one location you can also buy from Red-Tailed Farm and Green Drop Farm. Email owner Michael Torbett at email@example.com to be added to their weekly text of offerings.
- Humble Roots Farm also offers food at their own property. Meanwhile, Feast Down East has started a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box program. You can order a box of produce, comprising produce from several different area farms.