How we got started...
Down East Connect is a locally grown non-profit modeled after the successful project of the Foothills Connect Business and Technology Center. Inspired by the passion and determination of 2009 Purpose Prize winner Timothy Will, the Farmer's Fresh Market has taken off and become integral to the economic development of struggling rural areas across North Carolina.
Joshua Heinberg, founder of Down East Connect, met Timothy Will through 2008 Purpose Prize-winner Jock Brandis, of the Full Belly Project. When Heinberg first heard about what Will was doing on the other side of the state, he knew it could be replicated here in southeastern North Carolina. Heinberg then paired up with Columbus County Cooperative Extension Agent Howard Wallace. Together, Heinberg and Wallace worked with the Economic Developent Commission of Columbus County and with funding from the Brunswick Electric Membership Corporation, Golden L.E.A.F. Foundation and RAFI-USA (Rural Advancement Foundation International) Down East Connect was able to start fufilling it's mission. In March, Down East Connect was officially in business. Martha Campagna, a recent graduate of Antioch University New England with a M.S. in Environmental Education, was hired in May to take on the position of Project Manager. In September of 2011, the Town of Tabor City awarded Down East Connect with significant funding to help purchase a van and keep the project moving. Keep a look out for the upcoming Down East Connect Delivery Van around town!
Where we work...
Down East Connect seeks to sell local produce through Wilmington, North Carolina, and will hopefully also extend to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. While we may be targeting more metropolitan areas like Wilmington, many of our farmers come from Columbus County, North Carolina. The N.C. Department of Commerce has developed a system for annually ranking counties based on their economic well-being. The tiers range from Tier 1 (most-distressed) to Tier 3 (least-distressed). While New Hanover County ranks as a Tier 3, Columbus County ranks at Tier 1, making it an area in desperate need of economic revitalization.
Farmers across the country are forced to compete with giant agribusiness to keep their land and make a profit. It is up to us to come together as a community to support our local agriculture and secure the future of our farmers - and eat delicious food while we're doing it!
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