The Palmetto Insider

The blog of the South Carolina Policy Council

Nothing Says Summer in SC Like Local Broccoli, Right?

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A recent article in The Spartanburg Herald Journal left the impression that Upstate students were eating locally grown broccoli, despite the fact that vegetable doesn't grow well during hot-weather months.

In a testament to the success of the S.C. Department of Agriculture’s marketing campaigns pushing state residents to eat locally grown produce, we’ve apparently managed to turn long-standing agronomy practices on their head.

Witness a Sept. 23 story in The Spartanburg Herald-Journal titled “Schools celebrate connection with locally grown food.” The piece begins:

Broccoli is one of fifth-grader Andrea Diaz’s favorite vegetables served in Arcadia Elementary School’s cafeteria. Andrea recently learned that having the green veggie on her lunch plate doesn’t just benefit her, but the local farmers who grew it.

The problem is, broccoli doesn’t grow in South Carolina in the summer. The vegetable develops best when exposed to an average daily temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

“Broccoli is known as a cold weather crop and you have to grow it before there’s too much heat,” said Fred Broughton, marketing specialist with the S.C. Department of Agriculture.

Some broccoli is grown in the state in the fall and winter, according to J. Powell Smith of the Clemson Extension Service, but he knows of no South Carolina farmers who grow it in the summer.

“They may grow some during summer way up in the mountains, but it probably wouldn’t be good quality,” he said. “It wouldn’t be of the quality that we want to promote as a South Carolina product.”

The Herald-Journal article focused on Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers’ visit to Arcadia Elementary School, part of an “Eat Local” event sponsored by Chartwells School Dining Services, which is the food service company for Spartanburg School District 6.

Weathers has been promoting South Carolina produce through such campaigns as Fresh on the Menu and Palmettovore, which received at least $250,000 in taxpayer funds between them during the past fiscal year.

The rationale behind the Palmettovore campaign is that SC-grown produce and products are local, which purportedly makes them fresher and therefore healthier. Also buying SC products is supposed to help the Palmetto State’s economy.

But, interestingly, among the items on the menu at Arcadia Elementary earlier this week were sweet potatoes from Nash Sweet Potatoes in Hendersonville, N.C., nearly 50 miles north of Spartanburg.

So, were Spartanburg elementary school students served low-grade broccoli grown in the South Carolina mountains? Or perhaps the Palmetto State has undergone a sudden catastrophic cooling that enabled farmers to raise the floret-topped vegetable here this summer.

In fact, there wasn’t any broccoli served at Arcadia Elementary on the day The Herald-Journal reporter visited the school and won’t be for several weeks, until the weather cools, according to an employee of Chartwells School Dining Services.

“I think what happened is that the student made the comment about broccoli and the reporter wrote around that,” according to Cynthia Robinson, a spokeswoman for Spartanburg 6.


Written by Cotton Boll Conspiracy

September 25, 2009 at 11:16 am

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