Farm Festival celebrates local foods
By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 9, 2010 1:50 AM
Marisa Benzle, an apprentice with the Small Farm Unit of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems, plants cucumber seedlings during the CEFS Spring Farm Festival on Saturday.
With his tomato, jalapeño, parsley and watermelon plants growing at home, 11-year-old Jon Maness of Goldsboro was just the kind of person the organizers of the Spring Farm Festival were hoping to see Saturday -- somebody excited about not only eating, but also growing healthy, organic produce.
"It's just fun," Maness said. "It's just makes the meal taste better when you know, 'Hey, I grew that.'"
He's also hoping to grow some lettuce and maybe some carrots for his pet gerbils to eat.
"It feels good to give your pets something good you grew yourself," he said, explaining that he and his mother Mary have grown tomatoes and other small crops in the past.
However, he said, it will be the first time, that he's tried his hand at jalapeños, and he hopes the knowledge that he's eating his own food will make the heat worth it.
And getting people excited about locally grown, healthy, organic produce was the point of the festival, which is held annually on the grounds of the sponsor the Center for Environmental Farming Systems' Small Farm Unit.
The festival, which was attended by nearly 500 people organizers said, featured exhibits, demonstrations and workshops, all designed to help people learn to be better farmers and better stewards of the land. Offering people the chance to see bio-diesel up close and at work and learn gardening tips, as well as the opportunity to purchase organic vegetables and plants, the festival offered something for just about anyone interested in planting or eating locally grown vegetables.
"The people are all so informative," said JoAnn Fischer, member of the Gardnettes garden club in Wayne County. "I'm impressed with the scope of the things they're doing out here."
Other groups from around the region also came, including the Clayton Hiking Group, which had at least one woman go home with her compost pile starter kit -- a tub full of worms and wet, shredded newspapers, or even shredded junk mail.
"I'm going to take my worms home," Cindy Draughon of Clayton said. "I have a garden at home and some of my dirt is real loose and dry and low quality."
So she hopes the compost will help improve that. She also plans to share the compost with the other members of newly formed gardening co-op -- a group of friends who exchange the produce they grow in their back yards.
Also from Clayton was Cindy Mackuick, a former Wayne County resident.
"We're just interested in this and how we can go about doing our part for us and the next generation," she said, adding that her father had been a farmer and that she's always impressed to see how much things have changed.
But more than the educational aspect, festival organizers wanted people to go away excited about the possibilities of locally grown produce and excited about getting Goldsboro growing, the festival's theme.
"We want to help Goldsboro develop a farmer's market. There's money to be made and there's high quality food to offer customers. It's about good, good food," CEFS Director John O'Sullivan said.
Speaking at a booth explaining to people how they can market and sell their produce, he said there's a lot to be excited about in Wayne County when it comes to local foods.
"We've got a ways to go, but there's a buzz that's coming from many different people. I'm excited and it's just going to grow. Local foods are part of where I think Goldsboro wants to go."