Eagerly anticipating the opening of your community’s farmers’ markets and roadside stands where you can purchase fresh fruit and vegetables and other locally produced products?
You’re not alone. Over the past decade, the “farm to table” movement has emphasized the numerous benefits of buying local, including healthier and tastier foods. It has been a win-win for farmers, food suppliers, restaurants and, of course, consumers.
Established as an “agricultural seminary,” historic John de la Howe has had its own “farm to table” program since the early 19th century when the farm produced food for the children who lived and were educated here. Over the years, the farm and dairy were an integral part of JDLH, and students benefited from the healthy foods that were served at meals to the valuable life skills learned from working on the farm.
And while all of this may seem old-fashioned to some, the importance of the family – or local – farm is gaining in prestige.
“The farm operation at JDLH is growing,” said Frank Dorn, who is spearheading the current revitalization of agriculture.
“The land and historical mission of John de la Howe are a good fit with the national emphasis on locally produced foods,” said Dorn, who grew up on his family’s farm in nearby Edgefield.
Sales of pork from JDLH pigs has been popular this spring and are expected to experience greater growth in the fall, he said.
Other examples of the JDLH commitment to local goods include a beekeeping operation and a greenhouse that produces plants for home gardeners.
“Plans are under way to cultivate areas for the production of crops,” Dorn said. “There is a tremendous opportunity for JDLH to contribute to local food markets and to teach farming and horticulture principles to young people.”
In a nod to the success that S.C. restaurants have had with bringing locally produced foods to patrons, Bon Appetit magazine in 2013 spotlighted the menu of Husk restaurant in Charleston, saying, “In our farm-to-table era, trout is never just trout – it’s Sunburst Farm trout. Same goes with Mepkin Abbey mushrooms and Ambrose Farms spinach.”
Naming the suppliers of the food items serves an important purpose.
The article quoted the Husk general manager as saying the menu is “… a way to celebrate the Southern ingredients. We feel very strongly about recognizing the people who raise these items, and [the menu] is our opportunity to share that information with the dining public.”
At Stella’s Southern Bistro in Simpsonville, a large chalkboard in colorful handwritten script displays the local farms and food producers that provide vegetables, fruits and dairy products to the restaurant.
Stella’s web site pays tribute by saying, “Our kitchen uses time honored culinary techniques and cooks with respect for the product, our farmers, and our diners.”
Considering the JDLH acreage, history and community commitment, “the potential for our farm is huge,” Dorn said.
Submitted by Karen Petit (Karen.Petit@delahowe.k12.sc.us)