When we think of the holiday season, we all think of food, as we should. The Lowcountry has a distinct identity and our agricultural heritage is an integral part of that. This holiday season, we might look more critically at what food traditions we choose to celebrate and pass on to our future generations. The small family farms that make up the Beaufort community date back hundreds of years and exemplify food traditions entirely unique to our land and culture. In contrast, the tradition that a food choice such as HoneyBaked ham represents is the contemporary history of factory farming, begun in 1960 (HoneyBaked was established in 1957).
We hope to convince you to reclaim and celebrate your agricultural heritage this holiday season. There are many reasons to choose locally produced food now and year round:
- You are preserving rural land when you support local farms
- You are paying your local farmer – at the supermarket, most of your food dollars go to the transportation, packaging and marketing of the food, only a small fraction goes to the farmer.
- You are reducing your carbon footprint – buying local food reduces fuel consumption. After cars, our food system uses more fossil fuel than any other sector of our economy.
- You are spoiling yourself – locally grown food tastes better and has more nutrients.
Sustainable agriculture is not new – the terminology is modern, but the principles are not. Sustainable agriculture, like smart growth, reflects a desire to return to the wisdom we carelessly discarded a mere 50 years ago. The family farmers who once defined local food systems knew how to produce food that was flavorful, healthy and that safe-guarded the health and viability of the soil that produced it. Most importantly, they fed their own neighbors and solidified community values through food. Our family farms are still here, and they are still protecting our land and traditions.
The Three Sisters Farm in Pickney Colony is one such farm. A casual observer might conclude that Beth, Mary and Priscilla (the sisters) are a part of a newer organic concept. The reality is that they are continuing a family tradition, farming with the same reverence for the land held by their family more than 250 years ago. On St. Helena, Sará Green is also preserving the way her family’s land has been farmed for more than a century with Marshview Organic Community Farm. Every small farm has a distinct personality – Marshview teaches, and in this way passes the agricultural traditions of St. Helena to the next generation. These are just two of the farms that reinforce and demonstrate the value of local agriculture in the Beaufort area.
We can do our part to ensure that farms like Three Sisters and Marshview flourish. With even a slight shift in how we spend our time and money, a local sustainable food system can thrive in Beaufort. There are many ways you can be a part of this. You can buy most of your food at a farmers market, purchase your meat from a sustainable livestock operation in our region – and of course you can grow your own food, at home or in a community garden. For detailed information and how to connect to all of these opportunities in the Beaufort area, please go to the Coastal Conservation League’s website at www.coastalconservationleague.org/sustainable-agriculture/beaufort/ Give the gift of your patronage to a local farmer this holiday season.
This article was written for Lowcountry Weekly by the Congress for the New Urbanism: Carolinas Chapter. For more information, visit www.cnu.org