The phrases "Farm to Fork" and "Farm to Table" get thrown around a lot, but what does that really mean? On my latest Western NC Farm Tour sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, we were able to follow several ingredients grown on farms and transformed into products sold at the local grocery store.
Gardens ≠ Farms
Let's be real. I do not have a green thumb. I was gifted a "low maintenance" plant once as a housewarming present and it was dead within a week. I admire those who are able to have a garden to grow odds and ends of herbs, vegetables and fruit. However, I deeply revere the farmers who plant, nurture and harvest our food on a daily basis. They provide food and sustenance for the billions of people across the world. Just think about that. That is a lot of people! Farming is by no means an easy job, no matter how romantic it may sound. These men and women often work 12+ long hours consisting of strenuous labor under the scorching sun. Which leads into my next point.
Farming isn't glamorous
H-2A is a U.S. program that allows employers within agricultural industries to hire foreign nationals to fill temporary/seasonal jobs. This means they've already hired any and all U.S. workers who have applied. On the tour, we were fortunate to shadow 5th generation farmer, Cassandra Benfield Bare, on her farm, Harvest Farm. Our group spent only a couple hours "working" by picking tomatoes and transplanting cabbage in between taking copious amounts of photos. Despite it only being 9am, the 90 degree heat and high humidity had us drenched in sweat and covered in soil. Now imagine doing this for at least 10 more hours or until all the crops were harvested for the day and work was done in preparation for the next day. This didn't sound very appealing to most of us, even for the short time we were out there. Do you know many of your friends who would voluntarily want to work in these conditions?
Taste of Local
After the hot sun had the best of us, we made a beeline for air conditioning and to check out Taste of Local, put on by Ingles Markets and their awesome dietitian, Leah McGrath! We were able to replenish our energy in the form of delicious bites crafted by regional Western North Carolina companies. A few of my personal favorites included the Sriracha Spice pretzels from Asheville Pretzel Company, Woogie's Beer Mustard & Dippin' Sauce, Salted Caramel Peach Spread from Unicoi Preserves and finally, tomatoes and sweet potatoes from New Sprout Organic Farms.
With each gained connection with a farmer and participating in these farm tours, the phrase "Farm to Fork" seems rather redundant to me. Whether you're dining in a restaurant or at your home, the food has made it to your fork. Your food was grown by a farmer, whether they live down the street or miles away. Someone has spent numerous hours laboring so that this plate of nourishment can make it into the bellies of you, your family and friends. To discredit this would be a huge disservice for these people who provide food to billions around the world.