Vacationer Supported Agriculture
Vacationer Supported Agriculture (VSA) is a project led by NC State’s P1tLab and NC State Extension (Local Foods, Community Development, and Tourism Extension) aiming to connect small farmers with new opportunities to increase farm revenue through direct sales of fresh produce. VSA meets discerning vacationers’ desire to: a) have convenient access to fresh local produce, b) connect with the place they are visiting by buying from local farms, and c) leave positive impacts in the destinations they visit, by coordinating the sale and delivery of produce bags from local farmers.
VSA enables vacation home realties to showcase their commitment to the sustainable and equitable development of their local communities by recommending the produce bags to their guests. In each county, the Extension office and Tourism Authority play the critical role of recruiting and supporting local farmer groups and vacation home rentals. In turn, they receive records of the impact this initiative had on farmer revenue and destination competitiveness.
The VSA Concept
The concept of Vacationer Supported Agriculture (VSA) consists of coordinating the sale of weekly fractions of farm production shares over the tourism season. A group of farmers decide how many farm shares they want to sell, and vacation renters are invited to pre-buy a week fraction of those shares (i.e., vacationers can buy a bag of produce from farmers local to their host destination).
The VSA project first works with farmers and local Extension agents to define the produce bags and their delivery to the vacation rentals; then the team works with realty companies and local tourism development authorities to promote the produce bags among vacationers. Finally, the team works with an internet retail company to administer the online pre-vacation sales and the disbursement of payments to farmers and delivery microentrepreneurs.
The VSA team is currently working with County Extension directors to expand the VSA program to vacation destinations throughout the state. For more information, contact Becky Bowen, VSA Program Director, firstname.lastname@example.org (919.638.4317).
Funding of this program has come through a Farmers Market Promotion Program Grant administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Further scale up of the program will be funded by the Tobacco Trust Fund Commission in 2021 and 2022.