Barn Storm Tour

for Local Food

Coming to a Carolina Farmers’ Market Near You!

CFSA Barn Storm Tour for Local Food LogoAt the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, we love local food and farmers! This summer, we’re criss-crossing the Carolinas to meet as many farmers and foodies who share our passion for a local, organic food system and a sustainable community.

Our goal: We believe that powerful, truthful, well-told stories can change the course of history. This summer, we plan to tell stories that create a huge buzz around local food and sustainable farms to raise awareness of the 2012 Federal Farm Bill.

Reflection at the end of the road.

Barn Storm 2012 – The Video

Reflecting on the Barn Storm Tour leaves us inspired and truly excited. There are hundreds of people working tirelessly to feed us responsibly, and to give us an array of choices. Our appetites and trends are leading the charge – if tiny Spanish padron peppers are the new “it” food, markets are full of them. We’re incredibly lucky, and spoiled, to have all this rich food at our disposal!

But the life of the farmer isn’t rich, nor are the majority of consumers. The Barn Storm Tour helped us realize that, if a greater number of people dedicated their spending on local foods, farmers would thrive, and so would communities.

Even the smallest towns have a farmer’s market. But not all farmers can come home empty-handed. They’ll have to reload all their produce back onto the truck and hope to sell in other ways. A community of consumers is necessary for a market, and for local food economies to grow, so that everyone can enjoy healthy food choices. Here’s how we think you can help support your local farmer and, in turn, create a greater demand for their hard work.

Farmer Morgan of Red Beard Farms in Castle Hayne examines his naturally-grown corn, and tells it to us straight.: losing a few kernels is nothing; eating pesticides will make you sick. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis.

Bruised, imperfect food is okay. Take the example of Wabi Sabi Farm in Cordesville, SC. Their name is derived from a philosophy that beauty is imperfect. With organic, natural methods, you’re bound to get a bump or a bruise. But it’ll be a tasty one. And your food will come from clean sources –pesticide-free— right down the road. As Morgan of Red Beard Farms put it bluntly, if you’re a farmer, that inch of corn the bugs may have gotten to isn’t losing you money. But spraying chemicals on your crops is costly, too. And, he said, a consumer shouldn’t worry about nature stealing a bit of those kernels. An illness due to pesticides in your food will be far more expensive.

Ask your farmer questions. Engaging with the farmer is the best part about the market! Everyone’s tinkering with new crops these days. On this tour, we noticed a lot of sweet aji dulce peppers and tatsoi greens as the hip veggies of choice among growers. If you’re not sold on that huge tomato being so red and so natural, ask the farmer how he grew it.

Talk to your friends about local foods. Each one teach one. Spread the word. Make it a part of a weekend social activity to shop the farmer’s market together. If you want to learn more, or teach someone else, become a volunteer at your local school or community garden. And be sure to spread your message — don’t just preach to the choir, but help engage new folks in healthy eating and local food awareness.

Tomatoes at Winston-Salem's Cobblestone Market. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis.

Base your weekly food shopping and meal planning around the farmers market. If we don’t support local, how can we expect it to become more economical for everyone? If you’ve got a midday market close by, check that out, or plan your shopping for Saturdays. After that, hit the grocery store for anything else you may need. Put your money into the local economy first. And if you don’t know where your closest market is, voila! We’ve launched the Local Food Finder at www.carolinalocalfood.org to help you.

Support local food establishments. Wanna splurge on a restaurant meal? Skip the Outback (you don’t live there). Keep your dollars at home and eat straight from your soil (this includes big, juicy steaks, too.) Support your neighbors — the farmers, cooks and restaurant owners making it all possible.

Keep tabs on policy and let your representatives know. Agricultural policies affect your everyday life. We’ve noticed on this tour that people have become far more aware of what they are eating and how their food is grown. Government policies, like the Farm Bill, affect those systems. Everything about the Farm Bill can be confusing; it is complicated legislation that involves a complicated lawmaking process. However, this is not stopping people from seeking out the information and contacting their members of Congress and making their voices heard. It was encouraging for us to see so many people across the Carolinas who realize how important agricultural policy is, not only to our food system, but to our way of life in general. Stay active, and let us know whenever you have any questions!

Jared took this photo with his IPhone fancy settings (and saved a farmer from a flying tent!) after a torrential thunderstorm almost wiped out a market in South Carolina.

Best of Barn Storm Tour’s photos

My, my, have we seen so much! The Barn Storm Tour lent us an opportunity to meet the most interesting, passionate people working for local food and gave us a front-row seat to the changing season. Check out some of our favorite pictures we took on the road, throughout 36 stops in North and South Carolina. We took as many pictures of the personalities behind local food as we could. Can you spot your hometown market or favorite farmer? Plus, an array of tasty, fresh food options are on display, beginning with summer’s most fruitful vegetables and ending with autumn’s cornucopia of a harvest.

Kinston, her chef and her farmers.

Putnam Family Farms "grows green" and sells to Chef and the Farmer. Here they show us some proud photos of plump, naturally grown tomatoes.

Kinston, North Carolina, sits on the far eastern perimeter of Lenoir County, a region replete with big agricultural farms growing enormous amounts of cotton, tobacco and soybeans.

Chef Vivian Howard grew up in nearby Deep Run surrounded by the industry. Her parents farmed tobacco; now they raise hogs.

Vivian and husband Ben Knight own Chef and the Farmer, a cozy, upscale eatery in Kinston celebrated for its inventive take on real Southern fare coupled with the mission to source locally and responsibly. The restaurant opened in 2006, earning accolades like a nod as a James Beard semifinalist and praise from around the South and country. But a fire set them back a year. They’ve now reopened to a town with newfangled approach to agriculture, as we learned on our Barn Storm Tour stop.
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Family farming: a tenacious leap of faith.

Bethania Bottoms at Winston-Salem's Cobblestone Market, with possibly one of the sweetest little helpers.

Meeting farmers around the Carolinas on this tour has kind of jolted us into a reality we are afforded glimpses of, but maybe don’t fully think about at the time. Working the land as your livelihood requires a tenacious leap of faith. Farmers, and their families, employ a brave confidence in their ideas in growing food. Every morning wake-up call (whether it’s the rooster’s crowing or an early harvest) is a reminder of the valiant push necessary to make it all work. To make a meaningful, profitable life with your family. (CLICK BELOW TO CONTINUE READING.)

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A plentiful peck of peppers

Roasting peppers with Two Chicks Farm.

The South Durham Farmer’s Market is quite a treat. We had a wonderful time yesterday meeting new farmers and getting reacquainted with some of our favorite local-area farmers, including devoted CFSA members Bull City Farm, Four Leaf Farm, Prodigal Goat and more. A special thanks to Two Chicks Farm, who came out with a pepper roaster. We provided customers with a few incredibly delicious recipes from local cookbook author Sheri Castle, originally published here on NPR’s Kitchen Window site. I (Victoria) picked up a couple of red peppers from Two Chicks, who roasted them for me right on the spot. Paired with small red and white potatoes from 4M farm, I whipped up Ms. Castle’s fancy potato and roasted pepper salad for dinner!

Nine-year-old Jordan helps his uncle every Saturday, bright and early, at the 4M Farm SDFM stand.

Thanks again to Ben Filippo and the market for giving us a space to chat with customers. Support your local farmers market, wherever you are! This one, and many others, are open year-round, meaning that farmers are working hard to provide you responsibly raised meat and pesticide-free produce.  Buy local bounty — there’s plenty!

Today, in the spirit of peppers, we’re headed to the 5th Annual Pittsboro Pepper Festival. See y’all there.

What can a Farmers’ Market mean to a community?

Parker Family Farm will be at SDFM with Ashley's lovely string of peppers. Hang 'em up and they'll dry.

This Saturday, Oct. 13, we’re headed to the new and growing South Durham Farmers’ Market. Please join us in celebrating a new, growing  community market. We’ll have pepper roasting by Two Chicks Farm and a presentation by Jordan High School’s Future Farmers of America. Find more info here. 

South Durham Farmers’ Market is growing, and so is its surrounding community. It is our pleasure to present this thoughtful blog post to you all, by market manager Ben Filippo. Please read it. If you’re in the Triangle, come visit on Saturday. If not, make it a point to continually support your local market. As Ben says, “When I see people in our community return to market engaging their growers in conversation about their food, making new recipes and then telling me all about it, I know that we are onto something good.”

A surprise in Asheville

If it weren't for all the BST supplies crammed in the car, a possible piglet abduction may have occurred. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis.

Last weekend, we toured the Asheville area, where they source a tremendous amount of local farm products at almost every restaurant, as well as create beautiful artisan food products. This is a locavore’s paradise. On Friday, we tabled at two small markets: Warren Wilson College’s campus farmer’s market (with a quick visit to the on-campus “piggery.” Squeal!) and the East Asheville Tailgate Market (still steady with loyal customers despite a big storm).

The next day, we spent a cool, brisk morning at the North Asheville Tailgate Market, located on UNC-Asheville’s campus. We weren’t at all surprised to find creativity at work at almost every stand — tastings of Luscious pear (that’s the fruit’s name), a fresh tempeh fry courtesy of Smiling Hara, the whirl of Mountain Harvest Organics’ pepper roaster (and a bag of perfectly-charred peppers to take home), healthily-stuffed empanadas from Ceci’s Culinary Tour, a bounty of baked goods from Farm and Sparrow, Carolina Bison cut as you wish and so much more. (Check out our Facebook album.)

Our surprise in all this local fare came all the way from the other side of the world. Elaine Bradley, a farmer in Australia, approached our booth to say hello. Elaine is a small-scale organic vegetable producer in Queensland who came to tour the Southeast to research projects focused on sustainable agriculture. While in Asheville, she noticed an advertisement for our 27th Annual Sustainable Agriculture Conference and immediately signed up. Elaine says she hopes to start a CFSA-style organization back home to push forward the small farmers and producers within a current system that shows little to no support. She has been inspired by us, and we have been inspired and impressed by her! What a wonderful chance meeting. See y’all at the conference, and be sure to meet Elaine!

A Summer of Soil – Interning at Red Beard Farms

We’re still bouncing around the Carolinas, meeting inspiring farmers and food advocates in every single community we step our stormin’ boots into! Among the dedicated farmers are young people excited and ready to push a local, responsible food movement forward. As the average age of farmers in the United States continues to hover around 57 years old, we’re ready to support a younger generation of food producers. A brilliant example comes from Red Beard Farms in Castle Hayne. Hop over to our blog to read about the young farm and why college student Kayla Mixon traded in a summer at the beach to three months of farm labor — enjoying every minute. And be sure to check out the photos from the rest of our trip in Wilmington!