Optimistic farmers not hard to find in Polk County

Published 5:34 pm Monday, April 16, 2012

You might think it would be difficult to find a cheerful, growing population of optimistic farmers in America today, but I am doing so in and around Polk County at a delicious pace.
Using my sustainable three-pronged investigative process, I am peeling and chopping my way past “outsiders” mealtime trappings and living locally to be happier and healthier and to get to know my farmers and neighbors as my friends.
Twice monthly, I will share my musings and report locavore-friendly discoveries with you, the reader, in this Tryon Daily Bulletin biweekly column, “In Good Taste.” We will learn about farms and their products, recipes, slow food events and fundraisers and how to get involved with all of the above.
Polk County is rural first. Small family farms were once our main industry. As far back as the 1940s and 50s Polk County farmland was estimated to occupy more than 80 percent of the county’s 100,000 acres.
Presently, our farmland is growing again, finding marketplace in tailgate markets, local stands, groceries, restaurants, farm stores, CSAs and work shares. Through agriculture we are becoming a community again, trading money and services, looking after and socializing with our neighbors, and spending time with our children in pastures, gardens and kitchens: food is our community’s connective tissue.
Over the holidays this past year, I ate and drank with festive gluttony. I know I wasn’t the only one. There was one feast after another – parties, happy hours, potlucks, staff gatherings, brunches, lunches and second lunches.  It was a good time, one that I chalk up to friends and family in my life who also love slow foods, good times and mirth out of school.
So when it came time for the New Year’s resolution, I obviously wanted to shed party pounds and feel healthier. I know I am not the only one who ever came up with this resolution, either. My challenge: start with daily exercise and eat local foods only for the first 30 days. Hence, the first prong of my process began: revealing how to eat and live locally, from farm to fork to fabulous!
The second prong in this investigative work came through my continued work in and for local agriculture.  Since 2006, when I started my first farm business, I have met new people every day poised and excited for our food future to guide us back to our food past. This means slow meals and time with family, knowing who grew our food, preserving it and investing in our local community through subscribing to it.
I’m excited to introduce to you this growing number of optimistic food raisers and producers in our Foothills over the coming months.
The third prong, which for me creates a full fork, is the stewardship time I spend with food, hunger and sustainability issues. Being a part of “the solution” has meant organizing CSAs, helping at the Mill Spring Ag Center, serving in outreach ministries and churches, foods in schools, farming workshops and slow food conviviums.
Though this is a load of additional work, it feels like pleasure. It has created for me an enviable social life woven within the farmland fabric of Green Creek and Mill Spring, Saluda and Tryon, Sunny View, Lynn, Columbus and Landrum.
We just needed to get together and share a meal. The rest just seems to fall into place.
Follow “In Good Taste” the first and third Tuesday of each month as we spoon up delicious local foods and health notes for you.