Field To Table Farm Exploration – #MeetVeggies

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For a city girl like me, standing in fields of fresh tomatoes and being able to pick vegetables off the vine for a truly field to table lesson was a bucket list experience I didn’t know I wanted to have. It was the perfect ending to a full year of learning when I was invited to visit to the Vegetable Field Day in December. I started this process during BlogHer14 when I attended a luncheon with Monsanto and left with more than a few questions. I was happy to share this day with a group of bloggers that included Tara from Tara Met Blog and  Amethyst Moon from Life Music Laughter.

It really was an experience to go directly into the fields and taste fresh peppers, tomatoes, watermelon and zucchini. I even picked my own zucchini to make zucchini bread the next day. I also made a homemade tomato sauce that really captured all the freshness of tomatoes picked fresh from the vine. Getting all my produce back through security in a carry-on luggage was quite the adventure. Picking-tomatoes-monsanto-meetveggies Being in the fields for this day of exploration really made me think about how and what I eat. The breeders explained to us that most of the vegetables (other than corn and soy) that we see are not the result of genetically modified organisms (GMO) crops. I learned that Monsanto does produce GMO crops but only for squash, corn and soybean and most others are the result of traditional breeding. My experience in the field and talking with their breeders gives me a much better understanding of what a GMO actually is and what traditional breeding is.

Oftentimes people comment that a bigger vegetable is the result of genetic engineering but actually they’re the result of hybrid engineering. Hybrid engineering is a lot like the Mendel boxes I completed in biology junior year of high school. The vegetables we’re seeing are the result of breeders choosing the most desirable traits in vegetables and using those seeds for planting the next generation. So the supersized tomato that makes perfect slices so you can fit one over a whole hamburger, not usually a gmo grown food but bred for its size.

One thing that struck me is breeders are responding to the market requests. People like to buy vegetables that look a certain way in grocery stores. The ones that are blemished or don’t fit our standards of what they should look like get passed over and stores then have waste that they can’t sell. If you’ve ever had a home garden, you’ll discover that what comes out naturally may not look like what you get in the store. That’s because the crops grown for the store are bred for purchase by consumers. Think about when was the last time you bought a seeded watermelon? That’s because consumers decided we preferred seedless one in the early 2000s. We valued the convenience of seedless over seeded and now the market has responded by making seeded watermelons more difficult to find.

It’s a really interesting cycle to me because there are several steps in the path from field to store with business implications at each point that I would have never thought about. As consumers we pay a premium for tomatoes in winter but never really thought about if we should be able to have tomatoes in winter or how they even are grown. The answer of how is based upon the seed that is bred for a longer ripening stage after being picked in the field. TRAVEL What I decided at the end of my day in the fields made me examine how I think about food choices for my family. I’ve decided that as much as we can, I’m making the effort to shop seasonally and locally for our vegetables. I realized that just because we can have something doesn’t mean we should and taste can suffer too. My boys loved tasting the tomatoes fresh from the vine. They even tried hot sweet peppers with me. The spice was a bit much but knowing where they came from made the boys very interested in trying them.

Tell me, would you have liked to visit the field and learn more? Do you think it would have changed how you shop for your family?

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Comments

  1. says

    I love seasonal and local and in Georgia that means a good number of options year-round… not quite as many choices for those of us in the upper Midwest. I’ve been trying to add more vegetables & fruit to my diet the last few years and local & seasonal are a big part of that but frozen also has a great fit as does some of things that are brought in from other areas. A combination of things usually works better for me anyway rather than going all out one direction!

    • KendraKendra says

      I think frozen is a great option. I loved being able to make tomato sauce and freeze it. I’ll be doing a lot more of it this summer.

  2. Catherine S says

    I love the idea of field to table. We go to the local fields and get fresh fruit. We have a bunch in the freezer we use for smoothies.

    • KendraKendra says

      I froze a ton of things and I really did love the different taste. The homemade tomato sauce was amazingly bright tasting.

  3. Robin (Masshole Mommy) says

    I am interested in learning more for sure. I buy stuff at the farmers market, but don;t go to the field myself.

  4. Pam says

    I love to shop seasonally and locally. Not only does it save money and help the local economy, it just tastes better too.

  5. says

    I should have visited more local farmer’s markets when I lived up North. Fresh veggies and fruits taste so different than the ones you find at stores off season.

  6. says

    I have always witnessed people gardening and growing their own food. It is one of the most interesting things I have ever seen, and I would love to do it myself once I have room to!

  7. Kecia says

    We try to shop locally as much as we can. We are actually discussing those larger buys where you pay a field a monthly fee and get a certain amount of their harvest. We would have to go in with another family because there so much food!

    • KendraKendra says

      I would really like to do that too but it requires space, planning and effort. I might try it for next year though.

  8. says

    We live in a big city so there’s lots of fresh markets and stuff but I haven’t ever gone to pick anything. If we can’t get to the market we grab frozen! I think that’s an okay alternative. But I try to stop locally and fresh when I can!

  9. Rosey says

    I’d heard of hybrid growing but I didn’t know what it was until now. Your write-up was super informative here!

  10. says

    I’m a big fan of the farm to table movement. I like to go to our local farmer’s market or co-op and get what’s in season – it’s always what tastes best!

  11. says

    There are so many little farms and farmer’s markets in my area that you can go to most any place you want and they will let you pick your own. Most people either have huge vegetable gardens in their yards, or farm to table is huge in my area.

  12. says

    Oh gosh what a wonderful experience for you. We have a new farm to table restaurant that just opened and I can’t wait to go. I love gardening and can’t wait for spring so I can get started again this year.

  13. says

    It is a good idea to know where your food is coming from. It would be great to visit for me, but I rather go to a Farmers’ market for everyday purchases

  14. says

    I am all for organic eating and local produce shopping. If I could grow my own stuff in my backyard I would…one day! Go back to the basics!

  15. says

    It was such a great experience! I’m now buying and eating Bella Fina peppers and yellow tomatoes (although they aren’t as sweet as the ones we picked) from my local grocery store. I’ve been going to more local farmers markets as a result and might be joining a produce co-op too 🙂

    It was especially interesting hearing about all that breeders do to increase taste and brightness and prevent plant disease and the need for pesticides.

    PS: it was a great surprise to see you at the event too!

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