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.

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