Monday, July 24, 2017

Local Food Supply Chain Apprenticeship 101

This week is my final week as a North Carolina Growing Together (NCGT) Local Food Supply Chain Apprenticeship, eep that is a mouthful! I'm one of 16 students/recent graduates across the state paid to work towards bringing more local food into mainstream markets. You can learn more about each apprentice here. I can't believe how quickly eight weeks flew by!

What is NCGT? 
A USDA-funded initiative to strengthen "the economics of small to mid-size farm and fishing operations and their communities."

Where do you work and what do you do? 
This question varies per apprentice which is one unique aspect of this apprenticeship. Though we are all working towards a similar goal, we are gaining experience in varying sized food hubs, large corporations, small nonprofits, and even a berry processing start-up.

I'm an apprentice at Feast Down East, a nonprofit working to improve the food system in southeastern North Carolina through consumer education and produce distribution. FDE runs a food hub out of the Burgaw Historic Train Depot every Tuesday and Thursday. Local farmers bring their produce to us and we deliver it to our customers, mostly restaurants, in Wilmington.

As an apprentice, I've created both digital and print materials for the organization's use from updated farmer profiles to prospective farmer flyers and presentation slides. Twice a week, I assist the Food Hub Manager, Zach, with pack-out, too.

Do you have to be from North Carolina to participate?
No, you don't. There's a guy from Mississippi this year working along the state line at Working Landscapes. That said, you should have some interest in the food supply chain in North Carolina.

Big takeaways

  • Renewed interest in planning as a career (Go ahead, roll your eyes. I'll never make up my mind!)
  • Deepened understanding of food supply chains and farmer hardships

Other things I gained
  • Further involvement in Cape Fear Food Council Distribution Committee
  • Enhanced skills in research, multi-use content development, and relationship building
  • Nonprofit experience during a time of transition 
  • New interest in food entrepreneurship
  • Closer look at the dying dairy industry in Alamance County 
  • Introduction to produce distribution problems

Resources for food system planning 
If you're interested in the local food movement, food supply chains, or even food entrepreneurship I encourage you to apply for next summer's apprenticeship. I'll try to remember to announce the application deadline in 2018.