Are Farmers The New Celebrity Chefs?

Will-straightFarmers are now just as celebrated as superstar chefs.

And why not?

The farm is where good food begins.

Mitchell Davis recently wrote about the “era of the celebrity farmer” for the James Beard Foundation:  Move Over Celebrity Chef, Your Farmer is Ready for His Close-Up.

Now that the pages of People are peppered with sexy chefs and millions of viewers tune in weekly to see which chef is stronger than “Iron” or who will be crowned “Top,” the celebrity spotlight is saturated with men and women in whites.  Ever hungry for the next big thing, starmakers are casting their nets further afield — into the field, in fact, to draw in the overall-clad men and women who grow and harvest the food we eat.”

We’re seeing the trend with USDA’s new program “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food,” an initiative to help more Americans understand where their food comes from and how it gets to their plate. The program hopes to connect people with their local farmers.

American farmers feed our nation and the world, but they are all local to somewhere. Get to know your local farmer, and get tolocal food pic know your food. USDA wants to foster the viability and growth of small and mid-size farms and ranches, and we want to create new opportunities for farmers and ranchers by promoting locally produced foods. We also want to build the infrastructure necessary to support a local food system, and we’ll need local partners to do that. Local and regional food systems mean fresh food, vibrant communities, a strong connection between cities and the countryside, and support for this and the next generation of farmers and ranchers.

Farmers have also become the latest stars of ad campaigns. One of the newest is for Lay’s that features the actual farmers that grow the potatoes used to make the chips.


The farmer is definitely the hero at farmers’ markets, and many supermarkets (including Whole Foods) often tout farmers when promoting their local produce.niman beef
But you’ll also see a farmer’s presence on restaurant menus with the growing popularity of farm or estate-branded ingredients, artisan foods, heirloom vegetables and farm-to-table themed menus. There’s a tremendous interest today in food origins and traceability, which is being driven by food safety, quality and sustainability concerns.

Photo credit: Jimmy Fisbein for Time

Photo credit: Jimmy Fisbein for Time

All of these trends start with the farmer.  And the biggest rock star farmer these days is Will Allen, the founder of the Milwaukee-based nonprofit Growing Power, which has become a model for urban farming.

Allen was just recognized as a hero in Time magazine’s The 100 Most Influential People in the World issue:

A new movement is sprouting up in America’s low-income neighborhoods.  Some urban residents, sick of fast food and the scarcity of grocery stores, have decided to grow food for themselves.  One of the movement’s (literally) towering icons is Will Allen, 62, of Milwaukee’s Growing Power, Inc.  His main 2-acre Community Food Center is no larger than a small supermarket.  But it houses 20,000 plants and vegetables, thousands of fish, plus chickens, goats, ducks, rabbits and bees.  People come from around the world to marvel — and to learn.

The culinary world is also saluting the work of Will Allen.  The June issue of Bon Appetit features a great profile of this Milwaukee farmer:

“Kids are the key to improving the food system,”  Will told Bon Appetit.  “Children inherently know what good food looks like, tastes like — even if they don’t have access to it.   So kids can learn at our farms, and then share their experiences back at home.”

I agree, what a hero!  And I’d tune in to watch a show called Top Farmer or Iron Farmer. Why not?

Today’s farmers — they truly are outstanding in their field.

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