Making Healthy, Delicious: A Conversation With Margie Mansure

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Margie Mansure serves as the Family & Consumer Sciences Extension Agent in Watauga and Caldwell Counties in Western North Carolina. She is the Local Food Coordinator in Watauga and in both counties she specializes in food and nutrition. Margie loves mingling with people who are passionate about local foods and/or improving their cooking and food preservation skills. When she first started her career she worked as a cardiac rehabilitation dietitian and now she gets to promote healthy eating and community interaction through local foods which she says has a more positive vibe. In her current role Margie promotes local food through hands-on cooking classes, demonstrations, and videos in an effort to build confidence in the kitchen so community members can enjoy healthy food that still tastes delicious. You can keep up to date on some of her favorite recipes as well as her cooking videos.

Margie Cooking DemoMuch of her local food focused work is done in Watauga County where the local food scene is vibrant and thriving with a variety of products from small farms making their way onto restaurant menus and farmers market stands. The former County Extension Director, Sue Counts, helped to reinvigorate the local food scene starting back in 2001 through a partnership with women growers to establish Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture, a non-profit organization in Boone dedicated to building and strengthening an equitable, sustainable High Country local food system. This group currently operates the High Country Food Hub, the King Street Farmers’ Market, and Boone’s winter market, in addition to raising money for the Double Up Food Bucks program and receiving grant funding for a Local Food as Medicine program. One of the largest and most popular markets in Western NC is the Watauga County Farmers’ Market with over 60 vendors offering local products. Additionally, Appalachian State University offers a Bachelor’s Degree in Agroecology within their Department of Sustainable Development, which brings many enthusiastic students to the area. Margie considers working in an area with such high interest in local foods an advantage and constantly seeks how and where to best utilize her skill set.

Margie Apple Cider DemoAside from the usual cooking classes and demos, one of Margie’s primary local food centered programs unique to her county is organizing “Greening My Plate”, a month-long celebration every April that includes media promotion, educational events, and workshops to encourage community members to engage with healthy, locally-grown foods leading up to the growing season. She does this as part of her role serving on the board of the Watauga Food Council, a group of partnering organizations with a vision of a food system that is just and fair, builds a strong community, supports vibrant farms, nourishes healthy people, supports sustainable ecosystems, and builds a thriving local economy. This year will be the 10th anniversary of Greening My Plate Month and the Watauga County Commissioners even proclaim April as Greening My Plate month which Margie says is an effective way to encourage more community members to support their local food system. Another food council project is the High Country Grown Restaurant Certification, which aims to strengthen the local food economy by incentivizing restaurants and businesses to source local ingredients.

Margie suggests working to replicate similar events and incentives if there is local food support and interest in your county. More and more people and businesses are interested in supporting regional food systems and Margie feels that Extension can play a crucial role in grass-roots organization to support building infrastructure and systems that encourage more entrepreneurship around local food.

Oyster Mushroom Grits RecipeWhen talking about local foods you always have to ask about favorite places to buy or favorite recipes using local ingredients! Margie said she has many local food recipes that she loves but this Oyster Mushrooms with Green Grits recipe is over the top!