Buying local returns nearly half of every dollar spent to Charleston economy, group says

MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCIV) -- South Carolina has thousands of working farms, many of them with farm-to-table programs. Grocery stores and even big chain stores are getting involved and featuring local produce, which means about three times as much money returning to the local economy.

The phrases "locally grown" and "made right here" pop up on signs in stores all across the state, and people at one of the Lowcountry's largest functioning farms says it's boosting the local economy.

On a typical weekday at Boone Hall Plantation, turkeys roam and bees buzz while employees pull fresh produce from fields. It's part of life on a farm.

The plantation has seen plenty of changes in its 300-year history, but one thing has stayed constant: offering plenty of fresh, locally grown produce means people will flock to the plantation.

That's where Jaydie Rayfield comes in. From farm stand to the farm store, his work is the perfect example of the farm-to-table movement that has caught on with local restaurants.

"What we do is on Mondays, Eric and I see what we have an abundance of. So I'll get on the phone, call suppliers, and tell them what we have that day," said Rayfield.

On this particular Monday, they have an extra 300 pounds of strawberries picked at the farm. For Misty Lister, that means a lot of money back into the local economy.

"For every $100 spent at a local business, $45 is repurposed back into our local economy as opposed to just $14 at a non-local business," said Lister, who works with Lowcountry Local First, a company aimed at advocating for local, independent businesses.

It's a money tree that branches out far beyond the area. A recent study shows that if all residents committed 10 percent of their shopping budget to local merchants, the effort could generate about $50 million in new wages and 1,000 new jobs in the tri-county area.

A short drive south on Highway 17 and Rayfield is at a local lunch spot known for its fresh soups and sandwiches, Five Loaves Cafe. The owner, Casey Glowacki, and his hardworking team of employees are part of a six-restaurant group built around the farm-to-table movement.

Glowacki says his customers have taken notice.

"They expect it and ask questions about where you got the ingredients from. It's nice to educate our staff and get them excited about local farms." he said.

For Five Loaves' chef Chris Keck, locally grown produce gives him the option to create a unique and seasonal menu.

"There's an unbelievable difference. It's like night and day. You can be as creative as possible," he said.

It's something that plays out every day on the Five Loaves menu and put money in the pockets of dozens of people at Five Loaves, and dozens more at Boone Hall.

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