ELLERBE — The Sandhills AGInnovation center will hold a “career fair for farmers” Feb. 13, to match growers with companies that might want to buy and sell their produce.
The center held a similar farmer-buyer event in Moore County last year — before its actual building was up and its board elected — that attracted 50 farmers, said Susan Kelly of the Richmond County Extension, who first floated the idea of a center to county officials in 2013 and now advises its board.
“We had a lot of folks meet up with buyers” in 2017, Kelly said Thursday. So far, eight organizations have made commitments to attend this year’s event.
They include Foster-Caviness, which boasts that it is North Carolina’s “leading supplier of wholesale produce, serving Greensboro, Charlotte and Raleigh”; Seal the Seasons of Hillsborough, which works with local farmers to freeze and market their produce; and Ungraded Produce of Durham, which lessens food waste by buying, packaging and selling “ugly” produce.
Other attendees include Chatham Marketplace Co-op Grocery; Farmer FoodShare; Lowe’s Foods; Possum Run Garden Center; and Sandhills Farm to Table.
At the event, potential buyers will have table space to display their literature, and farmers will be free to wander from table to table, seeking the entities they think will provide them the best service and prices.
The event illustrates the mission of the center, a team effort between Richmond and Moore counties and the N.C. Cooperative Extension intended to offer local farmers the opportunity to sell their products wholesale and encourage those with a love for fresh produce to take up farming.
The center — at 1298 Crawford Road, Ellerbe — comprises 3,000 square feet of concrete and roofing near Ellerbe, including 640 square feet of cooler space that went online just this week.
“Nothing much is growing with all this terrible weather,” Kelly said, so the coolers will be turned off after the few days it takes to gauge their efficiency.
The electricity bill for the center was $380 last month, she said — before the “awfully expensive” coolers were turned on. “So I’m scared.”
Richmond County has 277 farms, according to the latest figures from the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service. Those include 17 fruit, nut and berry farms, and 19 melon, vegetable and potato farms.
Last fall, the fledgling center emphasized the growing of strawberries, greens and lettuce.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]