Reboot Charlotte: Mecklenburg County Farms
Charlotte, NC- From the serenity of the farm to the hustle and bustle of the market, the face of farming in Mecklenburg County isn't what it used to be. First of all, development and property taxes have put many farmers out of business. Huntersville farmer Bobby Houston says, "The last revaluation mine went up 171 percent." That has him on the brink of giving up farming, which he’s been doing for more than 30 years. Today his farm is one of only 9 working farms --in Mecklenburg County.
While Houston’s business is teetering, he says farmer markets and selling directly to customers is his one saving grace these days. "We had to go to retail sales instead of wholesale. You make a little more money on the retail end."
It’s an issue Mecklenburg County extension agent Kristin Davis knows all to well. She says, "What we've found is that charlotte has a lot of the demand and all of the other counties and farms have the supply." But that’s where her expertise comes in. She’s working to bridge the gap between Mecklenburg Count farmers and folks like us. “The initiative is to get individuals and businesses to commit to 10 percent of their food dollars to purchase locally." She says the money will go directly back into the pockets of farmers. Statewide that could be as much as a three and a half billion dollar economic boost.
Even for farmers like Kevin and Lara Hall, who run a profitable, you pick operation in South Charlotte, that’s good news. Kevin says, "What limits us from expanding today is not lack of customers. We have the customers. It's the risk, the investment up front that we stand to lose." But with 3 and a half billion dollars to go around, it's a gamble any farmer would have to consider taking.
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