Three panelists gathered in the Marlboro Graduate center and formed a circle with summit attendees to discuss the meaning of “Farm to Table.”
To panel facilitator Katharine Millionzi of the New Economics Institute, “Farm to Table” connotes purity and works to counter to anonymity. As a phrase, though, farm to table oversimplifies the efforts involved in getting food from the ground and onto the dinner table. While it sounds like a one-step process, farm to table requires participation from a vast web of people.
“Poverty is a big issue where I come from,” said panelist Amber Lambke of Skowhegan, Maine, who strove to repair her community by ramping up the vibrancy of the town’s 16-year-old farmer’s market. At the time, the farmers’ market was five vendors and one customer at a time.
Lambke tries to build interest in the community in local food and make produce available to all community members despite economic disparities in the community. The farmers market accepts and doubles EBT money. Lambke is also the director of the Maine Grain Alliance which focuses on local grain growth.
As a response to the question of financing, Lambke said her efforts were sustained by, “a lot of creative work with a lot of legal support.”
Panelist Ben Giardullo from Hudson Valley Harvest spoke to the audience about allying with smaller farms. Hudson Valley Harvest is a local distributor that buys produce directly from over 45 farms.
“Get dirty and farm if you can, whenever and wherever you can,” said Giardullo, who helped build American Apparel and now applies their vertical integration strategies to Valley Harvest.
Panelist Theresa Snow was the last of the panelists to speak. Snow is the founding director of Salvation Farms. Snow grew up around farming, and wanted to stress to the audience the importance of having a positive relationship with farms when it comes to surplus management and gathering a farm’s surplus. Snow finds it important that the farmers feel comfortable when members from Salvation Farm come to gather produce.