Farm City Banquet Focuses on Women in Agriculture
A farm marketing entrepreneur told a Farm City Week audience Monday night that she delivers "wonderful food to great people."
Kea Capel Meacham delivered her "My Hands on the Land" program to an audience of 155 gathered at the Moore County Agriculture Center in Carthage. Her program paralleled the "Women in Agriculture" theme adopted for the county's 26th annual observance.
"You really are the star of this show," Meacham said to the farmers in the audience.
The occasion also marked the presentation of awards for farming excellence and contributions to the community and distribution of dozens of door prizes featuring locally produced foods.
The Outstanding Young Farmer award went to Tony Harris, a poultry producer who lives in the Harris Crossroads community. The Moore County Farm Bureau sponsors this award.
John and Vickie Blue and their son, John Samuel Blue III, received the Outstanding Farm Business Family award, sponsored by Carolina Farm Credit.
They farm the historic River Daniel Blue farm in the Eureka community, a diversified operation with tobacco, fruit, vegetables, mushrooms and the most recent addition, a country-style produce business.
Kay Simpson, a Carthage member of the Community Crafters, received the Outstanding Woman of ECA award. She was recognized for her contributions to the Moore County Extension and Community Association and to her own community.
Simpson designed the distinctive costume worn by "Mr. Peanut," the 4-H Club mascot, representing the 100th anniversary of the 4-H movement and a museum project at Camp Millstone in Richmond County. The peanut stands for the peanut sales were made by a 4-H member many years ago to raise money to help his family build a home of their own.
Meacham opened her program with an anecdotal account of how she began her latest endeavor, in which she serves as the go-between for food producers and local chefs. She arranges for farmers, ranchers and fishermen to supply restaurants with the freshest, tastiest food for their customers.
"These farmers are putting their emphasis on flavor and texture, not shippability," she said.
In a recent two-week period, she transferred 11,000 pounds of vegetables, 2,500 pounds of greens and 3,000 pounds of fruit from local farms to local chefs.
Meacham said that in the past 10 years, the number of farmers' markets has more than doubled, reflecting the public's interest in eating locally sourced foods and knowing the people who produce the food they eat. She described another movement that she calls "flexitarianism," in which the dining emphasis is on produce rather than protein. She added that organic produce is now the fastest growing segment of the food market.
Next she described "the slow food movement," an effort to return to the old tradition of dining in a relaxed atmosphere in which people are drawn together for fellowship as well as food.
"Food punctuates my life," she said in closing the program with a slide showing hands holding a heart-shaped tomato.
Meacham, whose marketing background has its roots in textiles, said that her service as a bridge between producers and diners started with "a pig, a park and a picnic." She told of her first taste of Ossabaw pork, a heritage breed that is the specialty of a swine producer in a neighboring county.
This anecdote was followed by a description of a giant picnic featuring really fresh local foods and development of a new farmers' market in Southern Pines.
"We have turned an eyesore into a beautiful green space in Southern Pines," she said.
Seeing food as an art, Meacham talked to the chefs of the Sandhills to determine interest and needs and learned that they were definitely interested. Then she began working with farmers.
She has found plenty of fresh produce in Moore County -- a hillside of okra, a mountain of peppers, an endless supply of berries, bibb lettuce, squash, tomatoes, cucumbers and other traditional crops, along with such specialties as shiitake mushrooms.
Her slides illustrated the top restaurants that feature locally grown food and the farmers who produce the food. The trend toward locally grown produce is also being carried out in the culinary curriculum at Sandhills Community College, in support classes and preparation at FirstHealth, and by Sustainable Sandhills, and is reflected in the FirstSchool gardens and in the public schools.
Meacham told members of the audience to look for the colorful poster, "Sandhills Farmers and Chefs Celebrate Local Food," on display at restaurants in the area.
The Montgomery County native, a descendant of the family that founded Capel Carpets, began her marketing career with creative design in the home textiles field, ranging from Springs Industries to Bill Blass and Wamsutta. She is married to Southern Pines attorney Eddie Meacham and is the mother of four children.
Farm City Week is an annual observance hosted by the Moore County Cooperative Extension Service and the Chamber of Commerce.
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