Farm to Table brings second wave of food, fun | News

GREENUP The second Farm to Table Experience in Greenup brought food and fun to the area in what organizers plan to be an annual event. The event features a dinner made from area-grown produce, and educates people on just what it takes for food to make its way from the farms where they are grown to our tables. Proceeds from the event, hosted this year at Imel’s Greenhouse on Route 1, go to area youth programs in agriculture.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles was present for the event again this year (last year’s event was disrupted by the COVID pandemic) and had high praise for the event and area commitment to agriculture. 

“Greenup County has done it once again. They not only have a great Farm to Table Dinner, but they also have one of the best in the state. They started two years ago, and most counties start small with maybe 50 attendees,” the Agriculture Commissioner explained. “But tonight, for $35 each you have hundreds of people at Imel’s Greenhouse. And this is what it’s all about; it’s about connecting our rural community and our urban community, and everything in between. And it’s all about supporting the future of agriculture as well.”

Quarles noted that young people in the FFA and the 4H were out in forced helping at the event, and commended them for their involvement. 

“But it’s not just about breaking bread,” Quarles said. “It’s about reminding Kentuckians — especially in a post-COVID world — to buy local first. And chances are that at your local farmer’s market, they are going to have just about everything you need. They might not have everything, but chances are you can support a local farmer in your county or the next county over and still get the good, fresh food you need. And tonight’s event isn’t just about the dinner. There are numerous Kentucky Proud vendors here.”

Quarles said those vendors showcased what Kentucky Proud has to offer their community. He also pointed out the amazing resource which is the local farmers market. 

“The local farmers market meets every Thursday from 3 to 7 p.m., and on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 1 in the afternoon at the Greenup County Extension Office. So if you want to support local and put wonderful food on the table, it isn’t just one night a year, but year-round,” Quarles said.

“A farmer’s work is never done,” he added. “And it doesn’t matter if you are farming 100 acres or a backyard garden; there is always something that needs to be done. And this event reminds us of our culture and our heritage, and our future as well. Agriculture is a changing field.”

Quarles said Kentucky Agriculture has always been and will always be strong, in large part due to the diversity. 

“Unlike our friends in some of the flatter states out west, here in Kentucky we grow everything from apples to zucchini,” Quarles said. “And we grow everything in between. We have 76,000 farms, and a lot of them are small local farms.” 

Quarles said he grew up on a small tobacco and cattle farm, and noted Kentucky has successfully transformed many of the tobacco farms to focus on other types of produce. 

“At a farmer’s market you can find produce from former tobacco farmers, you can find people raising goats for meat — and a lot of them are making soap products with goat’s milk, and the other possibilities are really endless. I’m never surprised anymore by what Kentucky Proud can do. And tonight’s meal will be featuring produce from about a dozen farms,” Quarles said appreciatively. “Our Kentucky Proud program has never been stronger, with 10,700 members and limitless room for growth.”

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Bud Matheny, President of the Farm to Table Project at the McConnell House, said, “I want to thank this group for the incredibly opportunity to be involved in this. I never in my wildest dreams thought there could be something like this. But Kenny Imel came to me about two years ago, and he had this idea for a Farm to Table Dinner. And when Kenny Imel has a project like this, he has the enthusiasm to get it done, and you can’t help but catch some of that enthusiasm. I thought we did really well the first year, but he told me “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

When Imel had the idea to get sponsors involved, Matheny said, the two decided to make it a competition. And though Matheny admitted that Imel exceeded him this year, he said in a true competitive spirit to just wait until next year.

Matheny thanked Imel and Greenup Ag teacher Carrie Davis, who he said headed everything up through the school. The passion in the project, from all those concerned, was geared toward raising awareness of the many local farmers who produce right in our own backyard and to benefit the youth who are learning and on the verge of entering the agriculture business community. 

Davis said that she and her co-advisor, Gary Blevins, wanted to thank everyone who supported the first Farm to Table, and the Farm to Table baskets last year, which helped them through the pandemic. 

“The Farm to Table isn’t just a fundraiser for the 4H, the FFA, and the McConnell House,” Davis said. “It’s a project that also stimulates our local agriculture economy while showcasing the high-quality produce and products that are produced here in Greenup County and in Kentucky.” 

By supporting Farm to Table, Davis said, we are all helping to support our community and our state.

The Farm to Table Experience included a meal of local produce, but also included live music by Anne, Tom and Isaac Stephens, as well as a performance by Tom Clay. The event also included live auctions, door prizes and games. The evening was topped off with the last-minute addition of fireworks, after the dinner was complimented by homemade cobbler and homemade ice cream. Next year’s experience promises more of the same, with more local farmers and sponsors — and the community itself — putting the “proud” in Kentucky Proud.

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