2009-06-03 / Columns

GUEST COLUMNIST

Calling all Palmettovores

HUGH WEATHERS HUGH WEATHERS The S.C. Department of Agriculture is hard at work to increase the understanding of why it's better to eat local and how doing this helps our farmers.

In May, we launched another phase of our Certified SC Grown campaign, called Palmettovore. Scratching your head wondering what in the world that is? As they'd say in my hometown of Bowman, you got some 'splainin' to do.

A Palmettovore is "a person who attempts to eat only farm products grown and processed in South Carolina."

According to recent Palmetto Institute research, only about 6 percent of the food consumed today by people in South Carolina is actually grown in our state. I think we can do better, and that's one of the reasons we're asking people to become Palmettovores. We need more market share for our own farmers.

Now, I wouldn't ask anyone to do something I don't believe in myself. My wife, Blanche, and I are already trying to become Palmettovores at home. We joined a CSA (community-supported agriculture farm) to get fresh vegetables delivered each week. We've had great grass-fed steaks from a farm in the Lowcountry. Of course, eating good S.C. barbecue always qualifies. And my friends from the seafood alliance say we'll have good S.C. shrimp soon. So you see, it's not that hard to do.

How can you become a Palmettovore? For some of you, continue doing what you've done all along. Enjoy S.C. products and produce like you always have. For others, it may be lifestyle change to eat one meal a day from everything local, or one day a week — or a month of eating just S.C.-grown foods. Our commitment to you from the Department of Agriculture is to make it easier to find the products coming from S.C. farms by getting the Certified SC Grown label out there in the food outlets across the state.

We're calling June the Palmettovore Challenge Month to get more folks to start eating local. June is a great time to start, with summer crops coming in. You also should see more S.C. menus in our "Fresh on the Menu" partner restaurants. And let's not forget the community farmers' markets and certified roadside markets all across this state.

Why eat local?

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Certified SC Grown produce and products are local, meaning you know where they come from, and fresher is healthier.

FOR THE ECONOMY: Agribusiness is this state's leading industry, and the money spent here at home stays in our state, helping our economy.

FOR THE ENVIRONMENT: S.C. produce and products grown here and eaten here don't travel nearly as far as foods from across the country, leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

Three good reasons to make one good decision.

Go online and check out our Web site at www.palmettovore. org or www.certifiedscgrown.com for more information on how you too can become a Palmettovore.

(Hugh Weathers is the S.C. commissioner of agriculture.)

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