Some weeks are all nose to the grindstone and then there are periods when we raise our heads up and let the outside world in. This next week is one of those times. Yesterday day we are hosted 21 agricultural extension agents from Florida. Florida is a huge agricultural state but in the “old school”, large scale, let’s ship it around the world way. This group is up here for four days to see, feel and touch our thriving local food system. While all parts of the country are improving as to the numbers of small farms, farmers markets and the infrastructure that supports them, ours here in central North Carolina is really bustling. Not that we don’t have holes in the system that need to be addressed like the poultry processing problem, easier supply of some inputs, and other things; we do have large numbers of viable farms, great markets and strong groups working on making it all happen. This is the second group this spring to come to the area to see how we do it, you might remember the three van loads of agents and farmers from Louisiana that came for the Farm Tour. So if you see a large group moving through market on Saturday you all will know who it is and be proud of all the work we all have done and are doing for local food here in North Carolina.
The second round of events starts next Tuesday when Carlo Petrini the founder of the Slow Food movement arrives in the area for two days of farm tours, dinners and speeches. You all know of our involvement in Slow Food, having twice gone to Italy for the Terra Madre conference and subsequently working with the local chapter on various projects. Touring the country to promote his new book Slow Food Nation , Carlo is coming to launch the lecture series for the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS). CEFS is the largest research farm in the country doing work on sustainable and organic farming systems and it is here in North Carolina! Betsy and I sit on the Friends of CEFS Board of Advisors and during a meeting last winter we suggested having Carlo Petrini come and speak, never thinking it would happen this quickly. Carlo Petrini is one of the most influential people in Italy and in the world of artisanal food production and local food systems their is no larger figure. Information about his visit can be viewed here . There are three public events that we are involved in. The first is a huge (sold out) picnic being held at Chapel Hill Creamery on Tuesday night where farmers and chefs have been paired to showcase local foods that are in season. We are working with our friend Sara Foster of Foster’s Market in Durham. Betsy is donating all the flowers for this event as well and for the second event on Wednesday evening in Raleigh. A reception for members of Friends of CEFS with Carlo Petrini will be held just before his lecture at 7:00 p.m. which is free and open to the public, this will culminate his visit to the area. Tuesday and Wednesday before these events Carlo and others from the national Slow Food office will be touring farms in the central NC, possibly including ours, just be assured that Betsy has been out on the mower!