Eat Local, Eat Fresh

by | Jun 26, 2020 | Business, Business Profiles, Food & Drink, Topsail Beach

Experiencing local flavors is one of the highlights of vacation. Travelers to Surf City can enjoy VSA produce bags directly from local farmers and sample what our area has to offer.

Eating fresh, locally grown produce is a priority for many people, one that doesn’t go on hold when they’re on vacation. NC State Extension’s Vacationer Supported Agriculture (VSA) makes it easier for North Carolina coastal vacationers to connect with regional farmers and enjoy good food while enjoying their time at the beach.

A team of specialists from NC State Extension and Tourism Extension developed VSA as part of a three-year USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program grant. VSA coordinates the sale of weekly fractions of farm production shares to vacationers over the summer tourism season. NC State’s project team and county Extension partners coordinate groups of local farmers in the growing, packaging and delivery of bags of local produce to pick-up locations convenient to vacationers. This coordination is introduced to vacationers through local realty companies, property owner associations and other channels.


The VSA project was piloted in Ocean Isle Beach in 2018 and expanded in 2019 to other Brunswick County beaches (Sunset Beach, Holden Beach, Oak Island, and Bald Head Island), as well as Wrightsville Beach and Surf City. The program experienced exponential growth as a result of the 2019 expansion and has been both regionally and nationally recognized as an innovative approach to direct to consumer farm sales. Efforts are underway now to expand VSA also to the Outer Banks.

IIn Brunswick County, the largest VSA market is known locally as Vacation Vittles and has more than 30 participating farmers. Men and Women United for Youth and Families is the aggregator, and Randolph Keaton is its executive director and all-around conductor of all operations for delivery days. Keaton and his team of Youth Ambassadors will be aggregating the local farm produce and delivering the first bags to Brunswick County beaches on May 30.


Brian Knowles of Bear Ridge Farms is the official Farmer Ambassador of the VSA project. Not only does Knowles aggregate product for the Surf City market, but he also speaks to other farmers about his experiences with the project and has been instrumental in securing grant funding for necessary supplies, like coolers, insulated bags, and personal protective equipment (PPE). Brian will be aggregating local farm produce and delivering the first bags to Surf City and Wrightsville Beach on May 30.

Due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the VSA team is rolling out the program with appropriate safeguards against the spread of the virus, including contactless delivery. Aggregators are being trained in food safety measures, and all customer pick-up sites will have hand sanitizer stations.

Eat farm fresh even on vacation!
For more information, contact Becky Bowen
or (919) 628-4317.

To order a VSA produce bag, go to:

About the author

Michelle Macken

Michelle Macken