"It's like Christmas morning," Joe Rowland exclaims, standing in a field in Concord, holding a bundle of just-uprooted, sprightly carrots. For Rowland, the fruits, or vegetables, of his labor are gifts that keep on giving. With the help of his wife Dani, the Rowlands curate an online farmers market and delivery service called GO Local NC Farms (www.golocalncfarms.com), providing residents of Charlotte and the Piedmont with a sustainable alternative to shopping at grocery stores. The site allows locavores to register online, select organic produce, free-range poultry and hormone-free dairy products and choose a convenient pick-up location, like Heist Brewery in NoDa or Atherton Market in South End. Rowland raises turkeys and chickens at his personal farm, Rowland Row, and grows greens on-site at a 30-acre, certified organic cooperative farm, Elma C. Lomax, owned and operated by Cabarrus County. Other items are acquired from local farmers as far flung as Ashe County, where he sources cheese.
Creative Loafing: What makes your business different from typical farmers markets?
Joe Rowland: Convenience is what I think sets us apart. Not everyone has the time to visit a farmers market every week. With GO Local NC Farms, you can purchase tons of great products from local family farms from the comfort of your home.
Turkey is a significant staple for the holiday dinner table. Why do you feel it's important to buy a turkey from somewhere other than the conventional supermarket?
It all starts with the animal for me, the treatment and conditions in which it was raised and slaughtered. With local food, you know where it came from, who raised it, killed it. You can visit the farm, talk to the farmer, see things for yourself. Not to mention a healthier, happier animal, given free range, sunlight, exercise, the things that all creatures need, will give you a better-tasting, healthier product for yourself and your family. And then there's the economic benefits to the community of keeping your dollars local, the reduced energy and fuel needed to transport, package, and all the other local food facts you can find out there.
Charlotte is becoming more progressive in the way we are consuming. How do you feel about the growth of the local food scene and what improvements do you hope to see in the future?
It is definitely growing and that is a great thing ... you see more and more people and places, from restaurants to grocers to large institutions, getting involved with local food and paying more attention to what, when, where, why and how we eat, and again that is great. I think in the long run we will be better off, healthier, happier and a stronger community for it.
But I think there is a lot of work left, and a lot of it is way above my pay grade. So I hope that we continue to make good decisions in policy, planning, infrastructure, to make small-scale food production more accessible to growers and eaters alike. That being said, small farms and farmers will probably always struggle. It's not something you set out to do for the money or fame. It's a way of life that is extremely rewarding, and the farmers I know just want to share that with others.