farm to table
Like Mama said, the best way to a small town's heart is through its stomach.
Locally grown food promises to make a prominent showing at this year's MadisonFest. Spring yields from many nearby gardens will be available for sale along with milk, meat and handmade products such as soaps, cheeses and yarn.
Madison Locally Grown, an organization that maintains an internet store of local, farm-raised produce and meat, will coordinate many of the farms represented at MadisonFest.
Locally Grown members usually order goods online and pick them up once a week outside of Godfrey's Feed on West Jefferson Street, but MadisonFest is a special opportunity for locavores to come together in a market environment.
Wes Holt of Sunflower Farms will manage the Locally Grown booth at MadisonFest. He said he is looking forward to spreading the word about the farm-to-table program.
“What better connection than to be able to buy it right off of the web and have a convenient pick-up spot?” he said.
Holt expects the local fare at MadisonFest to include kale, lettuce, vegetables, cut flowers, live plants, meat, cheese and other dairy products.
“It's a really good idea to bring a cooler along,” said Colleen Hall, the event coordinator for Madison Main Street.
Christel Green of Greendale Farms, which is located just a few miles outside of Madison on Appalachee Road, said MadisonFest is a good time to learn about rare, artisanal products that are sourced entirely from the Morgan County farming community.
“I make somewhere between nine and eleven different categories of cheese,” she said. “It's good cheese because it's made with raw milk. So it's not pasteurized. The milk is from Morgan County, so we're keeping something that's milked right here.”
In addition to local fare, festival-goers should expect to encounter rare handmade products from farther afield.
Mystic Mountain Alpacas from Covington will sell yarn and handmade knitted accessories. At least one alpaca will be in attendance.
Red Clay Soap from Travelers Rest, S.C., also will provide creature comforts in the form of goats' milk soap.
While shopping opportunities will abound, MadisonFest is more than just a market.
“It's a celebration of what makes us unique here in the Southeast,” Hall said. “MadisonFest is thinking about ourselves regionally and what we can harvest or glean from our surroundings here. So we can buy unique crafts that you don't get in every store. You can buy food that's been grown within miles of Madison.”
The festival will also be a great learning opportunity for gardeners.
“It's a resource for plants that live well and do well in the South,” Hall said. “We have to garden a little bit differently.”
Experienced gardeners like Wes Holt, who hosts the annual summer Sunflower Festival at his farm, will be there to talk to gardeners, novice and expert.
Anyone interested in learning more about local farming or Georgia gardening should ask about the FARMeander program at the Locally Grown booth.
The FARMeander initiative emphasizes Morgan County's roots in the agricultural community and the abundance of fresh produce in the area by providing a tour guide of more than a dozen nearby farms.
“The whole idea with FARMeander is to give people the opportunity to actually go and see where their food is coming from, and some of those farms are open for people to come in and try or buy directly from their farm,” Holt said.
Stops on a tour of the local farm country could include a wide spectrum of products. Berry bushes, fruit orchards, Christmas tree patches, flower fields, cattle ranches, chicken ranges, nut trees, tomato vines and melon fields all appear on the map.
Whether you're interested in a larger education about the produce of Morgan County or simply the gustatory pleasures of the next day's dinner, MadisonFest is a great resource. Food and fellowship will both be in abundance, so for everyone, there's something to celebrate.
Printed in the April 19, 2012 edition.