CFSA and Anson County Farmers Advocate for Policies That Will Help Sustainable Farms Thrive
by Jared Cates, CFSA’s Community Mobilizer
April 23, 2013
At the beginning of April, I was fortunate enough to visit Gary and Kelly Sikes’ farm, Bountiful Harvest, in Polkton, NC. When I was growing up, my family rode through this region of the state on our back-road trips for holiday visits. I fondly remember staring out the car windows at the rolling fertile farmland and all of the cows and farms; the beauty of this part of the state always mesmerized me.
As I entered Anson County, I was enveloped by the green freshness of spring that was just starting to take over from winter. I think the taste of the cool spring air felt especially uplifting because I had already had a long day. Earlier that morning I attended the 7th annual Carolina Farm Stewardship Association Legislative Breakfast at the General Assembly in Raleigh. It was an excellent event and a great opportunity to meet many freshman and seasoned state Senators and Representative who were eager to learn about organic agriculture and local foods in North Carolina. Sandi Kronick of Eastern Carolina Organics gave an impassioned speech highlighting the importance of local foods and organics and how this growing market is creating real jobs in her business and throughout the state.
As soon as the breakfast was over, I made my way to Bountiful Harvest Farm to meet with CFSA member farmers and U.S. Congressman Richard Hudson of the 8th District. Congressman Hudson is serving his first term in the U.S. House of Representatives and is on the House Agriculture Committee; he will be doing important work on the farm bill this year. The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association and Bountiful Harvest Farm invited Congressman Hudson to visit for a farm tour and to hear from our members about organic production.
Unfortunately, the wet weather cancelled the farm tour, but the Congressman was still excited to visit the Bountiful Harvest and meet CFSA member farmers to hear their concerns about agriculture. The Sikes generously welcomed us all into their home and Kelly Sikes shared some delicious dishes prepared with free-range poultry raised on the farm. The fried chicken biscuit was a big hit!
Carson Sikes, their 14-year-old son told us about his love for the farm and how he raised a flock of 1,000 birds nearly all on his own. Carson is destined to be a master poultry farmer. The Sikes homeschool their children, and their other daughters, Mekalay and Carrie, are happy to help with the farm as well. Mekalay even helped to design the farm’s website with Kelly.
Congressman Hudson listened with interest to the seven farmers who attended and heard about the challenges facing family grass-fed beef farmers, sustainable pork operations, concerns around GMO-free grain and the general trend of corporate control edging out family farming. The Congressman shared his concerns about the short comment period for the Food Safety Modernization Act, which has since been extended.
We were also happy that NC Senator Gene McLaurin (25th District) and NC Representative Mark Brody (55th District) were both able to attend the meeting. Both the Senator and the Representative had attended the CFSA Legislative Breakfast earlier that morning. We appreciated their passion and their eagerness to learn more about organics and the challenges to local food systems.
At the end of the meeting, I realized that something truly great had happened. I had just witnessed a homegrown meeting in a farmhouse full of honest, hardworking people who were voicing their concerns about the future of farming and the future of their families to our elected officials; officials who actually have the power to make the necessary policy changes to support these farms. It was a powerful feeling. Attendees appreciated that Congressman Hudson, NC Senator McLaurin and NC Representative Brody were all there to listen to their concerns and CFSA would like to thank them all for attending.
I pulled out of the driveway at Bountiful Harvest feeling encouraged. Encouraged by seeing folks come together, encouraged by elected officials honestly listening to the concerns of their constituents and hopeful that Congressman Hudson will remember these conversations and share these stories with his colleagues in Washington, D.C. when he’s working on the Farm Bill this coming year.
Many thanks to Congressman Hudson for meeting with us and many thanks to the Sikes family for inviting us into your home!