It was as if God smiled when the rain cleared and a gentle breeze cooled farmers, sponsors and guests at the inaugural Lawrence County Farm-To-Fork event July 27.
A mouth-watering meal featuring locally grown food was the focal point of the event spearheaded by Lawrence County fruit and vegetable farmers Larry and Bonita LouAllen and the Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.
“We always read about it, and when we went to Bon Appétit at Belle Chevre in Elkmont, everything clicked for us—we had to do it,” Bonita said. “After we decided to do it, we had to find a vehicle to accommodate it. That’s where the chamber of commerce came in.”
The LouAllens and the local chamber of commerce recruited table sponsors, farmers, speakers and a local chef to help agriculture tell its story, but the event also held another purpose.
“Farming is so much more than growing crops,” said Diane Scanland, Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce executive director. “We wanted to support our local FFA chapters and encourage kids to come back home and farm, so all county FFA chapters each received about $200 from the event.”
Sawyer Kelsoe, an 11th-grade FFA member at Lawrence County High School, helped serve food at the event and said community support would go a long way.
“It’s good to give recognition to our farmers, and we’ll use this money to help with the FFA greenhouse, which will hopefully help increase the number of agriculture students,” he said.
The meal, prepared by Chef Jakob Reed, included grilled chicken breast with tomato and basil, smashed potatoes, vegetable medley, a salad crudité and strawberry cake with cream cheese icing.
Reed, who grew up in Moulton and works at the Albany Bistro in Decatur, said the combination of coming home and preparing local food was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
“We always try to shop at local farmers markets,” Reed said. “I grew up here, and knowing where your food comes from and how it’s grown is at the top of my list as a chef. A lot of farmers use sustainable practices, and I like knowing the money I spend for food is going back into the community.”
Larry LouAllen said, ultimately, events like Farm-To-Fork promote farming, the community and help the local economy.
“What we’re doing is taking food from the farm, getting the community together and saying ‘This is what we can do,’” he said. “This is us singing our song and telling our story.”