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.

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.

A Summer of Soil – Interning at Red Beard Farms, Castle Hayne, NC

Leeann and Kayla rock the signature Red Beard. Photo by Victoria Bouloubasis.

Imagine yourself as a college student. You’ve decided to spend summer break back home, and “home” just happens to be along the Carolina coast. Nostalgic memories would surely lure a native beach bum back to the shore for three months of relaxation.

 

Not the case for Kayla Mixon. Rather than trade in a school year’s worth of cold mountain air at Warren Wilson College for a summer of waves and ocean breeze, Kayla strapped on her work boots and got to digging on a farm.

 

Kayla found Red Beard Farms online after her mother mentioned hearing about it. Down a winding road in Castle Hayne, just a few miles from  Wilmington, North Carolina, Red Beard Farms is a new concept in a traditionally food-focused community. The land still sits across from a fresh seafood market and used to serve as the small town’s “U-pick” stop for fresh vegetables and fruit. Now, Morgan Milne, at the sprightly age of 26, has spent a year converting the land–easy to work with in some spots, more stubborn in others– into a sustainable farm. He’s got a beautiful sea of Silver Queen corn to show for it, waving toward plump rows of muscadine grapes, a hoop house packed with seedlings and a smattering of chickens and turkeys free-roaming the premises.

 

Kayla quickly signed up to be the farm’s very first intern.

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Barn Storm Tour 2012: Sweeping Through a Market Near You

Jared and Victoria chomp on bacon from Coon Rock Farm, a sampling at Western Wake Farmers Market's Meat Day. Photo by Sandy Straw, Coon Rock farmhand.

Today marks the first day of summer — a hot, humid, Carolina summer for us here in the South. It also means that our favorite fresh foods are finally coaxed into blooming. Summer promises, at last, a kitchen counter top studded with crimson red tomatoes. That’s my favorite balmy evening treat, a misshapen bulge of an heirloom in my hand. (Eve had it wrong going for that apple. Must’ve been September.)

Summer also beckons more customers to market and, this year, our very first Barn Storm Tour! From July through October, Jared and I (Victoria) will be touring throughout the communities of North and South Carolina to meet as many farmers and local food-loving folks who share our passion for a local, organic food system and a sustainable community as we can.

We have two main goals for this tour:
1) To promote our new Local Food Finder, a user-friendly online database for farmers, local food artisans and purveyors to showcase their hard work and for consumers to easily find what they’re looking for based on location. Looking for heirloom tomatoes near your condo in Raleigh? We got you.

2) To raise awareness of the 2012 Federal Farm Bill and how you, as a conscious consumer, can help affect it for the better.

We’ll be hosting fun community meetups (where you’ll snack AND learn). And we’ll be collecting stories that we can share throughout the country. Powerful, truthful, well-told stories can change the course of history.
Tour dates will be announced shortly as our schedule shapes up. If you’re in the Triangle this weekend, stop by our booth at the Carrboro Farmers Market this Saturday. We’d love to chat with you.

And join us in our efforts! We’re looking for volunteers throughout the Carolinas to help us tell the stories of their communities. Send us a note at jared@ and victoria@.

See y’all soon,
Jared and Victoria