Welcome to our "Port City Perspectives” Blog Series, where we take a peek behind the curtain of Wilmington's local businesses and community projects, and through the perspective of the owners, entrepreneurs and invigorators in our area! Today, we’ll have a look at the conversation between our agent, Liz Summerlin, and the Executive Director of Feast Down East, Jordyn Appel-Hughes. Feast Down East is an amazing organization devoted to strengthening the farming communities in Southeastern North Carolina. Their mission is to provide vital resources, education and distribution opportunities to local farmers while ensuring equitable food access to communities in need.

In this interview, Jordyn shares about the incredible work Feast Down East is doing to strengthen local food systems, the various FDE programs, how they support local farmers, and the innovative ways they are making fresh, locally sourced produce accessible to underserved communities. Keep reading to learn more!

Here’s the interview!

 

Liz: Tell us about Feast Down East?

 

Jordyn: Our mission at Feast Down East is to strengthen the farming communities in and around the Southeastern NC area by providing resources, education, and distribution opportunities to farmers while addressing equitable food access in communities with the greatest need. 

Our programs and team strengthen our local food system and farming communities by cultivating bridges between regional farmers and local communities; with a commitment to nourishing our community by helping local, small and limited resource farmers in accessing increased market opportunities to our diverse range of customers, especially those experiencing food insecurity. 

 

 

Liz:  How does Feast Down East actively work towards strengthening farming communities in the Southeastern NC area, and what specific resources and educational programs does the organization provide to the local community?

 

Jordyn: Feast Down East is actively strengthening our farming communities through the various programs operating out of the FDE Food Hub. The Food Hub is the heartbeat of the organization, serving as a national model for a GAP certified, wholesale aggregation center for farmers while facilitating food distribution for all of our programs. If you have shopped or eaten out locally, chances are you have tasted the seasonal, local food brought to market by those farmers that engage with Feast Down East. By working with the Food Hub, farmers are able to access our diverse wholesale customer base ranging from grocers like Tidal Creek, Whole Foods, the Northside Food Co-op; restaurants such as Benny’s Big Time Pizza, Savorez, The Green House Restaurant, Rx Chicken & Oysters, Manna; institutions like UNCW Campus Dining and the NHC Senior Resource Center; food pantry program like Pender County Christian Services, Catholic Charities; and the FDE Local Motive Mobile Farmers’ Market. We additionally provide educational programming + resources for our farmers. This ranges from topics such as food safety, post-harvest handling + packaging, organic transition, and more. While supporting farmers with business technical assistance.

 

The farmers we work with at Feast Down East comprise over 40 regional producers dispersed across 14 counties. We utilize a number of strategies in recruiting our farmers - some like Red Beard Farms, Black River Organics, Cottle Organics and Shelton Herb Farm have worked with Feast Down East since the organization and Food Hub first opened; others we have recruited via word of mouth and, networking at local farmers markets and agricultural events/conferences such as Carolina Farm Stewardship Association’s Sustainable Agriculture Conference. Please reference our farmer map and farmer profiles to get a sense of all the wonderful producers we work with, as well as viewing our storefront website to see what we have coming through the Food Hub this week. You can get a sense of who some of our customers are by viewing our customer map. Everything is local, everything is seasonal. We are extremely proud of this and the diversity of products we are able to offer ranging from fruits, vegetables, value added products such as honey, sea salt, elderberry syrup; proteins ranging from meat, eggs, and pecans; goat cheese, grits, and more.

 

 

 

Liz: In addressing equitable food access, could you share some examples of initiatives or projects that Feast Down East has implemented to ensure communities with the greatest need have improved access to fresh and locally sourced produce?

 

Jordyn: Feast Down East’s main initiatives in addressing equitable food access are through the Local Motive Mobile Farmers’ Market (Mobile Market), Food is Medicine (Food Rx) and Farmers Fighting Hunger. 

 

The Mobile Market brings locally sourced foods from the FDE Food Hub directly into 20+ communities with high levels of food insecurity through Brunswick, New Hanover and Pender Counties. The Mobile Market uplifts customers by providing them with purchasing power and choice in accessing affordable, local foods; accepting diverse payment methods such as cash, cards, SNAP/EBT food stamps with a double-up program matching food stamp customers dollar-for-dollar, and Food Rx vouchers issued by Novant Health clinics. 

 

Through the Food is Medicine (Food Rx) program, eligible patients of Novant Health receive a free Food Rx voucher to use at our Mobile Market. We currently go to several Novant Health and independently operated clinics in New Hanover and Pender Counties each week to provide farm fresh, local items to patients with food insecurity while healing their overall health using Food as Medicine.

 

Farmers Fighting Hunger is a cost-free program funded by programs such as FarmsSHARE in which regional organizations can access local foods as a way to nourish the communities they serve through their food access and feeding programs. Organizations place weekly wholesale orders from our Food Hub, giving them the autonomy to select foods that align with their program patrons' cultural and nutritional needs. 

 

 

 

Liz:  How does Feast Down East collaborate with local farmers and distributors to create effective distribution opportunities, and what impact has this collaboration had on the sustainability and growth of these agricultural businesses?

 

Jordyn: Every week, our Food Hub team collects availability information from our farmers. That information is then updated on the storefront website, and ordering goes live every Friday afternoon with customers having until Monday at noon to place their order with farmers alerted on the exact amount of each item that needs to be brought to the Food Hub. Farmers deliver these products on Tuesdays and Wednesday mornings to the Food Hub, located at the Burgaw Historic Train Depot. By 11am on Wednesday, our delivery truck has left the Food Hub and begins to make deliveries to our different customers, including the Mobile Market - delivering the product for the markets directly to Harrelson Center, where the Mobile Market is based out of. Please reference the attached PDF for a little graphic on this process.

 

By working with the Food Hub, farmers have been able to notate a steady increase in their sales. For some farmers, this means being able to farm fulltime and leave their side hustle. For some farmers, this means getting into customer markets they might not have been able to reach. Our farmers have access to technical assistance and resources towards educational opportunities, workshops, food safety, and FDE’s own Farmer Scholarship program.

 

 

 

Liz: Could you elaborate on any success stories or notable achievements that Feast Down East has experienced in supporting and empowering local farmers, as well as in promoting equitable food access within the communities it serves?

 

Jordyn: Here are a few testimonials! 

 

FDE purchases from small farms in tier 1 counties and other counties. This enables small farms such as myself to be able to participate in the larger markets. It also spreads our footprint into a customer base market that helps small farmers get into areas that we couldn’t before. “ 

  • Berry Hines, Bee Blessed Honey & Eastern North Carolina Farmer Collaborative

 

“We began working with Feast Down East in 2021 when we lost several large egg retailers in the Raleigh-Durham area following Covid.  Our main goal was to move our free range, pastured, Animal Welfare Approved eggs, but Feast Down East helped us even further by pushing our Non-GMO pork and beef into the Wilmington and surrounding area markets.  In the last two years, we have moved so much more meat and eggs to end-use customers than we were able to in previous years and prior to our collaboration with Feast Down East. Last year, with a grant from Feast Down East, we were able to purchase reusable and recyclable egg cartons from our third party auditor, A Greener World, which certifies our pork and eggs as Animal Welfare Approved.  We sincerely appreciate FDE's initiative to give back to their farmers through grant funding and we are proud to be a recipient of this award.  Most recently, FDE has helped our business grow our website where we hope to soon be able to offer online ordering for our meat and eggs as well as the Non-GMO livestock feeds we process on our farm. Working with the folks at Feast Down East has been an incredible opportunity to grow our farm operation, specifically our meat and egg endeavors.  Feast Down East, with their commitment and insight into making local, quality foods available, has helped to resolve food deserts in Eastern NC and the communities they serve.  We are grateful and honored to be a part of the Feast Down East initiative!”

  • Jessica & Jeremiah Jones of GrassRoots Meat & Feed Provision Co.

 

 

Liz: In the context of your mission, how does Feast Down East navigate and address challenges related to sustainability, climate resilience, and the changing landscape of agriculture in the Southeastern NC region?

 

Jordyn: Feast Down East works with a number of partners such as the American Farmland Trust and NC State Cooperative Extension to provide our farmers with climate smart options that they can integrate into their growing practices. 

 

 

Liz: Can you provide key metrics or statistics that highlight Feast Down East's impact on local farming communities, such as the number of farmers supported, increased agricultural production, or improvements in food access, and how does this data guide your organization in identifying and addressing the greatest needs in the region?

 

Jordyn: Please review our impact report for these key metrics of success from 2023. This data, coupled by internal + external surveys, evaluations, assessments and testimonials help us to identify the gaps and needs throughout the region. Through the Mobile Market, we have seen a redemption rate of 85% of patients redeeming their Food Rx vouchers with patients noting a reduced blood pressure, weight loss, more energy and stronger mental clarity linked directly towards their local healthy food access.

 

 

Liz:  How can others get involved?

 

Jordyn: Folks can get involved by volunteering at the Mobile Market or Food Hub.

Shopping at the Mobile Market, you can find our schedule on the website and social media.

Attending a Feast Down East event, such as our upcoming fundraiser at Palate on Saturday, June 15 from 6-9.

Donating or sponsoring our programs.



What a cool mission right here in our local area! We hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about Feast Down East and the vital work that they are doing in our community to include supporting local farmers and addressing food insecurity. If you feel inspired by their mission, consider getting involved by volunteering, attending events, or supporting their initiatives. Stay tuned for more insights into Wilmington's local businesses and community projects in a future Port City Perspectives blog!

 

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Author: Haley Elder, Marketing Manager

Salt + Stone Property Group

 

 

Interviewer: Liz Summerlin, Broker

Salt + Stone Property Group