Greenville’s Growing Local Food System

Greenville Forward's food panel included Chef Anthony Gray from Bacon Bros. Public House, Adrienne Hawkins from TR Farmers' Market, Amy Bishop from Greenbrier Farms and Scott Parks from Greenville County Planning and was facilitated by Edible Upcountry's Sam Wallace.

Greenville Forward’s food panel was one of several events we had during the month of May focusing on local foods.

It’s my favorite time of the year – Market season. I feel giddy going from vendor to vendor racking up my fresh greens, strawberries, locally-produced dips and spreads and locally-raised meats. I learned a while ago that my tummy would thank me for the early Saturday morning market visits and it has, time and time again.

So, it made sense that during the month of May, when farmers’ markets are starting, that we at Greenville Forward talk about local foods. We are currently in our Green quarter and creating a stronger local food system was one of the first topics we wanted to tackle in our discussions and programming. In the last few weeks we have  discussed food at a Food Panel discussion, at our monthly Momentum series where we asked “What Does It Really Mean to Eat Local?” and at our Progression series where Furman’s Dr. Alicia Powers’ did her first public presentation on Greenville Food Deserts.

A little disclosure, local foods is not mentioned in Vision 2025. Not once. Ten years ago, when the Vision was created this wasn’t a topic on Greenville’s radar, and that’s why it was so great to have such a magnificent panel representing producers, restaurants, distributors and planners in our area at our first event.We were lucky enough to have Amy Bishop from Greenbrier Farm, Adrienne Hawkins from the Travelers Rest Farmers’ Market,Chef Anthony Gray from Bacon Bros. Public House and Scott Parks from Greenville County Planning on the panel. And we not only had great panelists, but we also had a great partner for the panel, Edible Upcountry. Publisher Sam Wallace was kind enough to facilitate the discussion. Our panelists made some great points about the growth of the local food scene in Greenville and about the barriers that are preventing further growth. Amy said that the demand for local food is increasing and that goes hand-in-hand with the cultural renaissance that Greenville is experiencing. “Food is an art and Greenville is a very artistic community,” Amy said.

When asked what they would do if they had a magic wand, the group agreed that there are still some missing links in creating a more robust food system including reaching more low-income populations, the need for more capacity-building resources for local farmers and producers and  the need for education on preparing seasonal, local foods.

At our Momentum (Eating Close to Home) there was a lot of discussion around what local actually  means. While everyone had their own interpretation of the number of miles that define a locally-sourced item, the group spoke about the different types of farmers in the Upstate and how we can creative a more supportive community. There were many ideas about what we can do to become more of a local food hub,but the same missing links that came up at the Panel once again came up at the Momentum discussion.

Our Progression series had a little bit of a different focus. Dr.  Alicia Powers from Furman University has been conducting research on every food establishment in Greenville County. Beyond looking at where these establishments, such as grocery stores and convenient stores, are located, her team collected information on the availability, quality and pricing of healthy food options in these places. The research gives us a good picture of where Greenville’s food deserts are located and the populations most affected by lack of fresh foods. Dr. Powers has been conducting her research for the last four years and its exciting and necessary work. 

As we go through a re-visioning process to update the goals of Vision 2025, it is obvious that creating a healthier, local food system is now on Greenville’s radar. It’s obvious at my beloved farmers’ markets, at Swamp Rabbit Cafe and Grocery, at our Gardening for Good community gardens and at some of  our restaurants. But our discussions and presentations have left no doubt that two things are needed – more support and resources for local farmers and more accessibility for all of Greenville residents. And while there may be some gaps in Greenville’s local food system,  we have some talented, innovative people working on solutions. Greenville Forward is excited to be working with them and I’m sure our tummies will thank them in the future, over and over again.


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