Farm to Fork: what it is and why you should be excited about it!

Lisa Lake

Photo: The Lake farm is a family business. Here the men look over their cattle operation with the upcoming generation of Lake farmers. The importance of farming as a profession cannot be stressed enough. Without farmers, none of us could survive.

CULLMAN – Each year about this time you start seeing articles or signs about the Farm to Fork Dinner and the Farm Y’All Festival logo. You might have attended one or the other, or maybe this is all new to you. If so, this is why you should be excited about it…

But first, a little history lesson.

There was a day and time when everyone knew where cheese, butter, milk and eggs came from. The same could be said for the ingredients in bread, pancakes and a myriad of vegetables like squash, corn and tomatoes. That’s because most people in the 50s and 60s either lived or grew up on farms, or had extended family living on farms. Any school child knew that milk and butter comes from cows.

Not so these days. Even in an agricultural society such as ours, there are children who think eggs and milk originate in the dairy case of the neighborhood grocery store, and that bread comes from a factory, start to finish.

One way that farmers, including fruit growers, dairy, poultry and cattle farmers, wine makers, row crop farmers and others who put food on America’s tables have devised to inform the public about how their food is grown are Farm to Fork, or Farm to Table, dinners. These dinners have an interesting origin. It began when a restaurant owner by the name of Alice Waters started listing the names of farms on the menu of her Berkeley, California, restaurant, Chez Panisse, as a reminder that food really did grow on farms. Waters wanted to connect the link between the seasons of the year and the food she served, and she wanted to give credit to those who produced every item on a customer’s plate.

The farm-to-table movement has arisen concurrently with changes in attitudes about the safety, freshness and flavor of our food. Small-farm economics also play a part in the overall concept, with more and more people visiting farmer’s markets to purchase their food. Knowing your farmer makes a big difference; you can ask about his/her growing practices and you know that they often picked their fruits and vegetables that very day.

Farmer’s markets, Farm to Fork Dinners and restaurants which offer ‘farm fresh, locally grown’ entrees and side dishes, as well as the whole “Know Thy Farmer” and “Eat Fresh, Buy Local” movements have become popular ways to educate the public about the way food is grown and the people who devote their lives to supplying the world with fruits, vegetables, herbs, dairy and meat products, as well as soybeans, cotton and grains.

Modern agriculture produces enough food for the world’s 6.3 billion people. Today’s commercial agricultural statistics point out that one U.S. farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people. In 1960, that number was 25.8. The world’s population is predicted to increase by more than 2 billion people in by the year 2050. Ever expanding nutritional needs will require all farmers, worldwide, to rise to the challenge of producing more food while dealing with increasing impacts of water scarcity, a changing climate and constraints on available productive farm land. The bulk of the burden of feeding these people will rest on American farmers, some of whom are your friends and neighbors.

Agriculture employs more than 24 million American workers (17 percent of the total U.S. work force).  It is Cullman County’s largest industry, as well as the largest industry in Alabama. It is important to all of us – not only the farmers, but the consumers – because without the farmers, no one eats.

Thus, the importance of educating the general public about how food is grown and the importance of sustainable agriculture in our society.

This also means that all of us play a part in keeping waterways clean, proper use of insecticides, pesticides and lawn and garden chemicals which can infiltrate the ground water, and other practices that will ensure clean water and safe food.

The 2010 Gulf oil spill and other disasters illustrate what happens when companies as well as individuals take our natural resources for granted. Without each of us doing our part, the world will change in ways that we have yet to imagine.

Educating the public through dinners, festivals and putting farmers out in public at farmer’s markets are vitally important, both as educational tools, and as a way for local farmers to continue to earn a living by growing food for others. Developing a trusting relationship with the men and women, the farm families, who grow our food allows us to make conscious, informed choices about the quality and safety of our food.

The Farm to Fork Dinner is a way to celebrate and promote agricultural awareness, farming and the men and women who grow our food. Since the early 2000s, the number of farm-to-table operations has grown rapidly, and the idea of having local celebrations in honor of the farmers who devote their lives to feeding the world has caught on and spread across the country.

The agricultural community has come together to provide foods grown locally, right here in Cullman County by farmers who are often third and fourth generation stewards of family farms. The importance of these farm families cannot be stressed often enough. The dinner is a way of sharing information about how foods are grown, and the challenges faced by farmers which affect everyone – after all, no matter where you live, in a high-rise in the city, a house in the suburbs or on a country road, we all have one thing in common – we must eat to survive.

In Cullman County, agriculture is not only our largest employer, but a huge part of our heritage. 

This year’s Farm to Fork Dinner, which kicks off the Farm Y’All Festival, sponsored by Alabama Farm Credit with support from the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Center, will be held at Camp Meadowbrook on Saturday, Aug. 20, from 5:30- 8 p.m. The evening begins with a meet and greet which includes state and county dignitaries, local farmers, cattlemen, poultry growers and private citizens coming together to celebrate our local agricultural community.

The meal, prepared from local ingredients, will be a wonderful culinary experience. Executive Chef Randall Baldwin of Dyron’s Lowcountry will provide a four-course meal with a rich Southern flavor.

Come on out, y’all, and find out what all the commotion is about!

A limited number of tickets are still available, at a cost of $65 per person. For ticket information and availability, please contact the Cullman Area Chamber of Commerce at 256-734-0454.


Contributing farmers 2016

C & C farms is owned and operated by brothers Casey and Cody Smith in the Gold Ridge community. They focus on wholesale produce. Their crops consist of bell peppers, collards, cucumbers, watermelons and sweet potatoes. Casey was recently appointed to be vice president of the Alabama Sweet Potato Association.

Burmester farms is a third generation family farm in Cullman. Now run and operated by George and Rhonda Burmester. Their farm consists of soybeans, sweet potatoes (wholesale and retail). They have recently expanded the farm to include farm fresh vegetables available at their on-farm produce stand.

Kress Farms Wholesale is owned and operated by brothers Kerry and Brian Kress. Kress Farms is headquartered on the same land as it has been for the past five generations. They grow soybeans, sweet potatoes, Irish potatoes and peas.

Kress Farms Retail is operated by Travis and Ashley Kress. Their main crops are strawberries and peaches along with other fruits and vegetables. They can be seen weekly at the Cullman Festhalle Market Platz along with other farmer’s markets in north Alabama.

Locally grown flowers and greenery and decorative vegetables and fruits/ Cullman County Master Gardener's Association.


Interesting related articles

The Farm-to-Table Founding Fathers by Bruce Schoenfeld

My Farm to Fork Dinner Experience, Oregon |


Fun farm facts

  • The average person consumes 584 pounds of dairy products a year. The average dairy cow produces seven gallons of milk a day, 2,100 pounds of milk a month and 46,000 glasses of milk a year. There are 350 squirts in a gallon of milk.
  • Cows are herbivores, so they only have teeth on the bottom.
  • Raising beef cattle is the single largest segment of American agriculture.
  • One pound of wool can make 10 miles of yarn. There are 150 yards (450 feet) of wool yarn in a baseball.
  • Soybeans are an important ingredient for the production of crayons. In fact, one acre of soybeans can produce 82,368 crayons.
  • The heaviest turkey ever raised weighed 86 pounds, about the size of an average third-grader.