Honors College event promotes local agriculture

Brittney Knox

Honors college students gathered at Epiphany Cafe Friday for a food tasting and discussion that hosted some of Tuscaloosa’s local leaders who spoke about the importance of eating food grown locally.

Local farmers began the talk with their experiences of farming here in Tuscaloosa and the importance of eating locally.

Grant Luiken, a senior majoring in international studies and Spanish and coordinator of the event, taught a course called “The Food Movement” to 10 freshmen.

“I also have always had an interest in cooking and then began to go to some of the Farmer’s Markets,” he said. “I then introduced myself to some of the farmers.”

He said he began to think more about where his food came from after talking with his teacher Andy Grace, who, along with his wife, committed himself to eating only food grown in Alabama for an entire year.

“My wife and I committed ourselves to eating food grown only from Alabama for a year and will soon produce a documentary about our experience,” Grace, an instructor in the department telecommunication and film, said.

Grace’s wife, Rashmi Becker, said one of the things she learned through the experience was that they had to learn to eat by seasons.

She said in addition to their experience of eating locally, she and her husband will continue to promote the Druid City Garden Project, which has its first garden at University Place Elementary School.

“Students that are interested in eating locally can begin by visiting the Farmer’s Market here in Tuscaloosa that is located under the bridge near Jack Warner and begin to develop relationships with the farmers,” Grace said.

Local farmers Jon and Margaret Fleenor, of Katie Farms, attended the food discussion at Epiphany and spoke with students about their experiences with farming.

Margaret Fleenor said the two began farming just for themselves and then had more than they needed. They started to give some to their neighbors, who then suggested that they take their excess produce to the Farmer’s Market to sell.

Epiphany served hors d’oeuvres made from locally sourced ingredients to students on Friday.

“We grow seasonal fruits and vegetables and things other people don’t typically grow, such as the heirloom tomato,” she said.

Fleenor said there are many benefits to buying produce locally such as benefitting the community because they are farming that live here, shop here and their money benefits their local community.

“Also, consumers should take into consideration that if they are buying something that came all the way from California then it adds days to get here, and costs gas to get it here,” she said.

She said they also have farm fresh eggs that have a different quality of taste than eggs purchased from a big company.

“We feed our chickens different things than a big company would so therefore there is a different end result is quality of taste,” she said.

Luiken said students interested in eating locally should visit the local farmer’s market, visit Katie Farms in Coker, Al or visit eatingalabama.org.