Home Local News PHOTOS: Sandhills AGInnovation Center holds open house

PHOTOS: Sandhills AGInnovation Center holds open house

Broccoli grows in the garden at the Sandhills AgInnovation Center in Ellerbe. See more photos from the open house below the story. Photos by William R. Toler - Richmond Observer

ELLERBE — The Sandhills AGInnovation Center opened its grounds to the public Saturday with a variety of displays and food.

SAIC Manager Davon Goodwin said the open house was a good way “to engage the community, for them to figure out what we do.”

The Richmond County office of the N.C. Cooperative Extension is a major partnering agency with the SAIC and the agents were on site cooking or manning information booths about the services offered.

The free food offered at the event included chicken on a stick and collard wontons, chased down with sugar-free juice or lemon- or cucumber-infused water. And for dessert: homemade strawberry or peach ice cream.

American Legion Post 147 was also selling hamburgers and hot dogs.

Jerry Etheridge, along with Isaac and Tara White had a table set up for a primitive hunting and living exhibition.

There were also a few tractors in the field next to the production facility with descriptions of how they’re used.

Other booths included the Richmond County Partnership for Children and Stewart’s Pee Dee Bees.

The center opened in 2017 to help local farmers with marketing and distribution of their products and offers technical assistance and equipment, according to Goodwin.

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The SAIC is also a food hub, with a box program to provide fresh produce to food-insecure communities across a nine-county region. Goodwin said the SAIC has about 300-400 boxes going out per week.

This time of the year, the boxes contain fall produce, like collards, cabbage, sweet potatoes, apples and turnips.

Goodwin added that boxes can vary depending on community preferences.

The garden between the production building and the greenhouse is currently planted in broccoli, with a few rows of blackberry and blueberry bushes nearby.

While many food hubs are funded through private philanthropy, the Richmond County Board of Commissioners stepped up “to get it going,” Goodwin said, adding that it serves as a model for other counties.

See more photos below.

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Managing Editor William R. Toler is an award-winning writer and photographer with experience in print, television and online media.