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Coaxing life from the dirt is a sun-up to sundown venture for farmers, so it makes sense that they could use an extra hand with marketing. In the Appalachian region of North Carolina and Tennessee, small-holder farmers who are too busy growing food to worry about advertising it have come up with a clever solution. High Country Grown, a label and marketing campaign, promotes locally grown meat, dairy products and produce. Its tagline, “Shake the hand that feeds you,” lets consumers know the food hasn’t traveled far, and that the local economy will benefit from their purchase.

Working through partner Blue Ridge Seeds of Change, Heifer International is helping to fund and organize the High Country Grown effort to maximize farmers’ profits.

The new High Country Grown label lets buyers know where their food comes from. Photos by Stephen Bailey

The new label is already helping Caleb Crowell, director of the New River Organic Growers farmers co-op, sell more products to more people in a larger area. Adding the High Country Grown label lets buyers know that their money is going for locally and sustainably food.

“It gives us something unique we can market. We feel like it’s going to take us down the mountain,” Crowell said, meaning that he believes the label will create demand for his farmers’ goods in Asheville, Charlotte and other nearby cities where shoppers want to support local growers.

The label sells on the mountain, too. This growing season, Crowell made regular deliveries to Appalachian State food services. This was the first year that New River Organic Growers sold directly to Appalachian, a campus with 17,000 students.

The contract with Appalachian, along with the higher demand Crowell is seeing as more shoppers seek out locally grown foods, is making a big difference in his bottom line. He anticipates sales for 2013 to come in around $350,000, up $100,000 from 2012.

Check out this video about Ann Rose, another farmer in the co-op.

Ann Rose talks about what motivated her decision to become a full time farmer.

Photos by Stephen Bailey

Top photo: Caleb Crowell, director of the farmers coop Blue Ridge Seeds of Change, is using the High Country Grown label to generate more demand for his products.




Austin Bailey

Austin Bailey is a writer and editor for Heifer's World Ark magazine.