The Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative is based out of Moore County. The mission is to meet local food needs with local food and that happens, in CSA style, when consumer members sign up for produce boxes. Boxes are delivered to one of thirteen locations, called gathering sites (and you'll hear why!).

Jan Leitschuh and Fenton Wilkinson initiated the cooperative and set it up in a way so that no one group (farmers, consumers) had to shoulder all the burden themselves. Sustainable Sandhills, a non-profit based in Fayetteville- created and conducted an online survey to gauge interest from the local community for produce boxes.

65% of the community expressed interest. Fenton went to the farmers with this information. The farmers, now aware of a real demand in their community, expressed interest in growing produce for the project, but needed more assurance. So, Fenton returned to the consumers and asked for a sincere commitment to the boxes, including a $25 membership fee. 400 people signed up immediately.

That guaranteed farmers a market. This "ladder" model made it possible that everyone was "in this together."

Some numbers of their success: (*watch to hear how many people actually signed up in total!)

- 3+ tons of produce was donated to neighbors who needed it.
- $18,000 contributed to 2 churches and 2 schools.
- Two Business Developments happened as a result of the Cooperative: Youth blueberry farm and a two-farmer tomato-salsa joint venture.

In their end-of-year consumer member survey:
- 65% of members reported they shop more at farmers markets directly because of receiving the boxes.
-85% said they ate more fruits and vegetables. (direct impact on community health!)
-81% said they felt healthier.
-78% of children in the consumer member households ate more fruits and vegetables.
-74% children ate and LIKED new fruits and vegetables.

Learn about this cooperative and the ideas of Fenton and Jan for starting something like this in your community!

The Tobacco Communities Reinvestment Fund (TCRF) assists farmers in developing new sources of agricultural income through provision of cost-share grants. This story is part of a series documenting innovative farmers throughout the state of North Carolina. This program is made possible with support from the North Carolina Tobacco Trust Fund Commission.

Photography, audio, and production by Alix Blair.

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