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We caught up with this veggie whisperer, who helms the thriving food hub GrowFood Carolina, on her favorite local eats and the organization’s biggest win yet
CM: You used to be a finance gal. What inspired your foray into the food industry?
SC: I love fresh food. I worry that if the system continues in the direction it’s been heading, smaller farmers focused on variety, flavor, and the healthiness of the land won’t be able to make a living. So I channeled my business experience toward helping these farms scale and thrive.
CM: What inspires you and gets you out of bed in the morning?
SC: The team at GrowFood is exceptional. We all wear many hats, work in close quarters, handle a highly perishable product, deal with lots of different personalities, and ultimately answer to Mother Nature. Everyone still shows up every day psyched to do what we’re doing. I’m truly honored to work among these folks.
CM: How can Charleston residents get through the winter months and still buy produce from area farms?
SC: Winter can be challenging, but we’re slowly building up a local supply of cool-weather storage items: pears, persimmons, beets, turnips, citrus, grains, and more to carry us through the cold season. Sweet potatoes are my personal wintertime savior. I like to cube and roast them with rutabaga and some kale or collards, maybe throw in some local bacon. I’m not a vegetarian! You can find local GrowFood produce year-round at Harris Teeter, Whole Foods, and Earth Fare, or via Sea Islands Local Outlet, an online farmers market [www.silo-charleston.com].
CM: What do you consider GrowFood’s greatest accomplishments?
SC: This fall, we reached a million dollars in payments to area farmers. In the grand scheme of the food world, this is pennies, but we’re demonstrating that the system works and that we’ll continue to grow and have great impacts on the local food system.
CM: Any special memories from visiting area farms?
SC: The first time I went to visit Carolina Kiwi in Vance, South Carolina. When I got the call about going out to look at local organic kiwi vines, I thought someone was pulling a fast one on me. Organic kiwi in South Carolina? It’s still one of my favorite things to sell in the warehouse.
CM: At work, you’re busy connecting rural farmers with local buyers. When you’re off the clock, how do you unwind?
SC: I cook. There’s something about chopping and dicing while drinking a glass of wine that takes away the day’s stress. I love cooking for friends, but they need to be patient because I’m a slow chopper.
CM: What’s a typical dinner?
SC: Very simple food. I am fortunate to have such ripe, seasonal, farm-fresh ingredients at my fingertips that it doesn’t take much to make something delicious and satisfying.
CM: Favorite foods?
SC: Anything straight from the field. Okra is a new favorite. Of course, everyone has their vice. Mine is tortilla chips made with non-GMO corn. I can rip through a bag in a day.
CM: Least favorite foods?
SC: If you want to torture me, feed me any sort of fast-food chicken.