Wednesday, January 28, 2015
You might have noticed the local food movement sweeping over the Midlands, and the rest of South Carolina for that matter. I mean its kind of hard to miss the Soda City Farmers Market on Main Street, or the that list of must-eat-at-while-in-Columbia restaurants just so happen to source most of their ingredients locally. And hearing about Columbia Food Tours tasting their way through said hot spots on those beautiful January days just solidifies the thirst for local food.
What you might not have noticed though, is that the movement has touched more than the local consumer or the small farmer. Large farms, the USDA, schools, and many more entities are joining the conversation. Each looking to learn, incorporate techniques and assist in making foods more accessible.
I attended the Agri Biz Expo in Florence and was amazed at what I saw. At first I saw the typical "Red Tape enforcer' government employee, the ginormous farmer that just wanted to make a buck and of course the salesman. Avoid eye contact at all costs I thought to myself or I would be thousands of dollars in debt in the matter of ten minutes. Non the less, I was hyped to be there.
It didn't take long before my heart was warmed and there was change occurring in what I was seeing. I started to see the people. The government point person became this really knowledgeable lady that wholeheartedly wanted to help people navigate all the hoops that are in place. The amount of helpful information that she gave was like hitting a Vegas Jackpot. Then I saw that large farmer. That farmer happens to be from the midlands area. He was sitting in on a Soil Seminar that Dr. Kloot from USC was giving. With it being the year of the soil endorsed by the United Nation, it was refreshing to see that farmer learning a better way to tend to the soil. And as it turns out, that farm has put in place some amazing organic practices. Now we have the salesman, which didn't try to sell me anything. Not even an idea that their product was better than xyz. They just wanted to help solve problems that most farms run into at one point. Actually one even offered to help me with some writing contacts. Finally we have the schools. Dave Lamie of Clemson gave a fantastic workshop on Choosing Wholesale Markets for Local food Products. (I have some handouts if your interested.) And the Florence Extension is looking at building a Food HUB among other projects. How awesome is that?
I walked away from the expo being able to see the local food movement happening at the state level by local people. I'm so grateful to see the love these people have for our great state and local food.