Quick. Quiz time.
Do you know where your last meal came from?
Not the store or the restaurant, but the place. The origin.
In a world of overwhelming food choices, simply becoming more aware of where your food comes from can be a small and positive change. We are increasingly connected, but more and more disconnected from our food sources. On a simply physical standpoint this disconnect contributes to the spread of disease, pesticides, global warming, and lowered nutrition in our food. From a metaphysical standpoint, this disconnect where we are most vulnerable (what we put into our body) can leave an emptiness we don’t even realize.
The farmer down the road matters to our community, whether we are aware of it or not. Beyond just supporting our local economy and promoting sustainability in agriculture (all things your purchase of local produce contributes to), buying and eating local connect you to your community and your food in a way that transcends science. It tastes better, but you’ll swear it feels better too. The good news is, it’s easier than ever to get to know your local farmers and become more connected to the food you are eating. And two North Carolina organizations are working together to provide a better future for our farms and our plates.
Piedmont Culinary Guild:
Piedmont Culinary Guild (PCG) is a “grassroots effort to create a working dialogue with the food industry by providing a platform that is easily accessible for all to utilize and benefit.” In order to connect the food chain in North and South Carolina, PCG was founded to bridge the gap between farmers, chefs, restaurants, and consumers by offering resources to chefs, farmers, culinary educators and food artisans in the area.
Piedmont Culinary Guild hosts events throughout the year, including the Sensoria Food and Wine where this past event, attendees voted for their favorite dish. (Chef Greg Collier of The Yolk in Rock Hill won for his dish of Cornbread Toast, smoked trout and apple salad, meyer lemon hollandaise, charred strawberry espelette spice. And if that doesn’t inspire you to think local, what will?)
Center for Environmental Farming Systems:
The Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS) is a partnership of NC State University, NC Agricultural and Technical State University, and the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. CEFS “develops and promotes just and equitable food and farming systems that conserve natural resources, strengthen communities, improve health outcomes, and provide economic opportunities in North Carolina and beyond.” They focus on organic and sustainable farming in North Carolina.
CEFS’ annual September event, Farm to Fork Picnic, has become one of the largest culinary events in North Carolina, with Bon Appetit magazine recognizing it as “the country’s best all-you-can-eat feast” in 2009. CEFS also works with North Carolina’s Cooperative Extension program, pasture-based livestock education programs, and promotes sustainable agriculture and women working in livestock.
Farmers Markets & Cooperatives
In addition to supporting these local organizations, don’t forget about the simple act of choosing where your food comes from. You can shop and volunteer at your local farmers markets, and participate in your local farmer co-op (which these days can include fresh meat and cheeses, as well as produce). Other ways you can spread awareness is by asking your preferred grocery store to carry locally-grown produce and setting up a way to get your child’s school involved through field trips or cafeteria food sources.
If you’ve ever had a memory of sitting with your grandmother, shelling peas or husking corn or eating watermelon from her garden on the back porch, I’m sure you can remember the feeling of that moment even now. It’s not just the heat, the drip of watermelon down your chin, or even the memory of your grandmother that make those memories so special—it’s also the food. The way you can taste those North Carolina summers and the way the peas and corn and watermelon knew you, even if you didn’t quite know them.
Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21