On the evening of Thursday, March 28, you’ll have the opportunity to network with farmers and support sustainable agriculture in Alabama at Farmer in the ‘Dale, an event at Freshfully Market in Avondale that’s part fundraiser, part dinner, part cooking class, and part meet-and-greet.
Farmer in the ‘Dale is a fundraiser for the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network, which supports small farmers with resources for funding, organic training programs and advocacy. Jen Barnett, cofounder of Freshfully, explained the framework of ASAN to Weld: “It’s a relatively new organization, privately funded, and they rely on all the farmers who’ve established themselves buying memberships and on people who want to eat fresh, local food getting involved.”
However romanticized the notion of the yeoman farmer might be in American history, it’s hard not to notice that they’ve struggled mightily to survive in the global marketplace. Migration to the cities has resulted in a dwindling labor pool for family farms, as well as the loss of many hard-won traditions and secrets that were once passed down from fathers to sons.
Despite the decades-long decline of small farmers, there are – as Barnett noted in her interview and as Andrew Grace’s documentary Eating Alabama illustrated beautifully – young people trying to revive the old ways. “There’s a new generation now, mostly Millennials, who are interested in starting farms,” Barnett said. “But how do you learn that information that was typically passed down from family member to family member?
“ASAN is trying to fill in the gaps,” Barnett explained. “What ASAN does is travel all over the state and hold classes – here’s how to farm, here’s how to do season extension … here’s how to be certified organic, and so on. And so they’re fulfilling a duty that really, in the past, was handled by family or by the government.”
A key part of helping longtime and aspiring farmers alike is introducing them to markets for their goods. In that sense, Farmer in the ‘Dale is a golden networking opportunity for farmers, as it links them to restaurant buyers, chefs, food truck cooks, and foodies with whom they can form lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.
Even for the non-industry types, the event is shaping up to be a great night. Highlands/Bottega, Little Savannah, and Saw’s Soul Kitchen will provide the food, Avondale Brewing Company will provide the drink, and local DJ Friday On My Mind will provide the old-school funk tunes. For the would-be foodies in the audience, there will be cooking classes on how to make goat cheese (courtesy of Belle Chevre) and sushi rolls with Alabama gulf shrimp.
There will also be an exhibit of lush photography by Julie Hunter centered on Alabama farmers. To cap it off, you could win door prizes from local farmers and vendors, too.
Most importantly, Farmer in the ‘Dale will be an opportunity to support a system that puts a human face back on one of the oldest and noblest professions in the world. For Jen Barnett, who remembers buying corn and bushels of peas off of the back of farmers’ trucks as a child and who has dedicated herself to making small farming viable in an age of Google searches, that’s what it’s all about.
“There’s a certain small group of people who really understand this issue and who are banding together, and this is kind of their night,” Barnett said. “It’s a night for everyone who does believe that buying fresh, local food from our neighbors has a value to it.”
Freshfully is located at 200 41st Street S. Farmer in the ‘Dale will take place from 6-9 p.m. on the evening of Thursday, March 28. Tickets are $35 and may be purchased from freshfully.com – you can also redeem the coupon “eatlocal” for $5 off the ticket price. For more information, call (205) 983-6456.