The Future of the Food Economy

Spring brings so much to the table and March’s meetup was all about FOOD!

The Center for Creative Economy launched the Bonfire Encore series as a response to the Beta Bonfires hosted by IdeasCity WS and Wake Forest University. This third convo in our three-part series welcomed seasoned creatives whose engagement with the world as an editable landscape, engaged in delicious conversation about the potential for Winston Salem to stand out as a uniquely sustainable foodie destination.

CCE’s panel featured Winston-Salem based Margaret Norfleet Neff (founder of Beta Verde & Cobblestone Farmers Market) and NYC based Hospitality consultant Keith Durst (principal at FOC).

Why Winston Salem?

The City of Arts and Innovation is catching the attention of developers around the world. Our community is easily accessible as a destination, lively, diverse and heavily invested in the local economy. So much is coming to our Twin City, which constantly begs the question, How do we center our history and push the boundaries of art and creativity? Durst and Norfleet-Neff agree on most, including: Winston Salem is almost unmatched when it comes to the culinary arts and there is so much potential for different elements of the food economy to thrive. We wonder what makes the most sense about investing is our beautiful and varied landscape?

1. Accessibility. From an outsiders perspective, WS is extremely accessible. Our local airport, PTI, offers micro and macro connectivity to the whole country AND every corner of the Triad. Light traffic, ample parking and the lush greenery of WS are always reasons to come back. “Whenever I tell my team we are headed down to WS we always have a ton of volunteers!” said Durst. 

2. Good People. If there is a focus and intensity around it Winston Salem has almost all the components.

3. Local. Local. Local. Both speakers remind us of the value in our environment. From land to water to wildlife to education, the NC landscape is clean and ripe with potential. As businesses turn to local farmers, growers and entrepreneurs in order to offer a uniquely local product the value stands out – creating a well rounded and sustainable economy.

4. Room to Grow. We are in the middle of palpable growth in Winston Salem and there is so much room for more. Statistics show, young families have chosen Winston to grow sustainable businesses, families and futures. More importantly, young adults see the Triad as a place to come home, a place to stretch your unique wings and be celebrated for doing so. 

Catalyzing the LOCAL Food Economy

Winston Salem is already a great balance of urban and rural but in order to scale the local food economy we must prioritize that balance. We can’t just draw on the local economy to help build people up, we must capitalize on something innovative. Food touches so many silos of our lives and our wallets that a daily and intentional balance of social, economical and cultural sustainability is necessary to ignite change. 

1. Create Subsidy.  Currently federal programs and subsidies direct mass food distribution via chain grocery stores and their essential workers. To get these pieces out of federal hands and into local pockets, Norfleet-Neff and Durst stress a focus on creating local subsidies that center our food producers and makers. 

2. Liveable Wages. Durst says, challenging state requirements and investing in hospitality workers so that they may earn, live and thrive in Winston Salem is key. Many communities don’t view serving and hospitality work as a career opportunity. The next steps are to create career paths in hospitality and elevate base positions so that people root themselves in the community and seek viable options for growth. 

3. Equity in Access. Shared use kitchens are especially helpful, and an area of expertise for Norfleet-Neff, as they enable access where space, time and equipment might not be available. Utilizing college and university connections to prioritize training and expand access, at the foundation, to marginalized communities. 4. Break Barriers. Work to eliminate the middle-man and modulate costs associated when connecting local producers with large-scale consumers.  Creating a strong pass-through accelerator to help grow opportunities for producers to scale their businesses.

4. Break Barriers. Work to eliminate the middle-man and modulate costs associated when connecting local producers with large-scale consumers.  Creating a strong pass-through accelerator to help grow opportunities for producers to scale their businesses.

Free to be You and Me 

The entrepreneurial attitude lives deeply in Winston Salem, the Triad and North Carolina. We’re home to a vibrant ecosystem and the momentum to nurture hospitality entrepreneurship. The more collaboration, communication and embracing of food makers and producers the better. Getting people together from all over the city, committed to working together toward a sustainable food economic model, becomes a part of the fabric of the community and a space where everyone gets to shine.

CCE is grateful to all our panelists for participating in the third chapter of our Bonfire Encore series. Hosted through our Momentum network, CCE focuses on offering inspiring conversations and networking that can lead to actionable projects. Join us next month for a new series, Momentum Mash-up: The Mixtape! Our April 15th event will feature entrepreneurs who mash-up tech with their creative passions to address key issues. Register here!

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