From left, Samantha O’Neal, Tammy & James Weeks of Nu Sunrise Farms talk to Charlotte & Ronald Crooms about the Croomses’ experience of visiting all of the 2021 GFB Farm Passport Markets.
Article & photos by Jennifer Whittaker, Georgia Farm Bureau
Consumers and farmers crossed paths during the Homegrown event Georgia Farm Bureau hosted as part of Macon’s 40th Annual Cherry Blossom Festival in March.
Food enthusiasts turned out to shop at the farmers market set up on Poplar Street Park in historic downtown Macon. Farms from nearby counties that participate in the GFB Farm Passport program sold popular products like fruit bread, cured meat, honey, ice cream, jams, pecans, pickles, lotion and soap, to give shoppers an idea of what they’ll find on a visit to their farms.
Guests enjoyed free coffee compliments of Macon’s popular Taste & See Coffee Shop with GFB Women’s Leadership Committee members Andrea Sims and Kathy Malone serving as baristas.
The event also included panels that addressed food nutrition, what it’s like being a female farmer, and the perks and challenges of operating a family business from a female perspective.
Nutrition: labels & healthy diets
Scarlett Farr, an instructor for the Mercer Employee Wellness Program; Michelle Henry, a clinical dietitian at Piedmont Healthcare; and Millie Smith, a clinical nutrition manager at Atrium Health Navicent, discussed nutrition issues.
“The only label on a food package you should pay attention to is the label on the back of the package that lists the ingredients, serving size, calories and nutrients per serving,” Farr said.
She urges people not to pay more for a product because of descriptions that are marketing ploys. Food products described as enriched or that have a lot of ingredients including the word enriched have been heavily processed, Farr said. A food described as being fortified has had vitamins added that it naturally would not have.
“Many products have gluten free on the label because it never had gluten in it to begin with,” Farr said. “Natural can mean whatever you want it to mean. Hemlock is natural, but it’s not a healthy option.”
Smith encourages people to get most of their food from the perimeter of the grocery store.
“When you’re in the grocery store, try to stay in the perimeter of the store. Start in the produce section for your fruits and vegetables, pick up unprocessed, low-fat meat,” said Smith. “Stay away from the center aisles where the junk food is located.”\
Henry pointed out that canned or frozen fruits and vegetables are a healthy option if fresh produce isn’t in season or would go to waste before you can eat it.
The panel also discussed fad diets.
“A lot of times fad diets are too restrictive and are hard to maintain like the Paleo Diet where you cut out grains or the Keto Diet that’s high fat and low carb,” Henry said. “A lot of fad diets can lead you into nutrient deficiency. If you’re going to diet it needs to be a lifestyle change.”
Controlling total calories consumed and portion control is important for a healthy diet, Smith says. She encourages people to stick to the serving size listed on the nutrition labels of food products.
None of the dietitians are fans of juice cleanses. They advocate drinking lots of water to keep our livers and kidneys healthy so they can flush out toxins.
From left, health professionals Millie Smith, Scarlett Farr & Michelle Henry share nutrition tips.
Farm-hers talk shop
Leigh Anne Greene, Joy Hunt, Laura Jensen, Kanisha Miller and Lindy Savelle shared what it’s like being a female farmer.
Miller, who grows produce that she sells directly to customers from her farm or at markets, says her days usually begin at 5:30 a.m.
“I get dressed and make my way to the farm to work before it gets too hot, then I head inside to post the produce for sale on social media or can it, to sell later,” Miller said.
Hunt, Greene, Jensen and Savelle began farming later in life after teaching preschool, working for a county housing authority, an auto parts company and the FBI. Although Jensen and Savelle grew up on farms, they had to adjust to the unpredictability of farm life just like Hunt and Greene.
“It’s funny how you think your days are going to be one thing and then they transition into something else,” Savelle said.
Jensen echoed this sentiment saying, “Yesterday at 6 a.m. I was registering pigs, doing taxes at 7, then loading pigs at 10 a.m. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing if the pigs get out. You stop and go get pigs up.”
The panel also discussed the misconceptions people have of farmers.
“We don’t look this pretty every day,” Miller said laughing. “We’re wearing boots and not wearing makeup.”
Greene said she thinks people underestimate the skills farmers have and the tasks they juggle.
“We’re bankers, marketers, and we have to know how to use all the technology on our equipment,” Greene said.
Hunt says she’s had friends ask, “‘Can I come down and just relax with you on the farm?’ They don’t realize that we’re working every day.”
From left, Laura Jensen, Kanisha Miller, Joy Hunt, Leigh Anne Greene & Lindy Savelle discuss their lives as farmers with GFB Certified Farm Market Coordinator Kelly Henry.