As of late I have been hearing about farms and how they ain't around the state of Alabama like they used to be. Farmers' kids grew up and moved to the suburbs. Farming got more commercialized, and the the lifestyle and profession became less popular and less profitable. So said Nick Pihakis, founder of the Jim 'N Nick's empire (below on right), when I walked around a farm with him. And so said Andrew Grace in Eating Alabama, his new documentary about the year he and his wife exclusively ate food farmed in our fair state.
|Photos taken for 280 Living.|
Nick doesn't dream small. He has a vision for family farm that can be sustained by selling produce to restaurants like his, and where the family who lives on that farm eats off the land. He's testing out this idea on a plot in Mt Laurel in the Birmingham suburbs, as pictured. With this model, he has hopes to rebuild the agricultural structure of the South. Learning all this on a farm tour with the equivalent of a movie star in the Southern food world (and sharing the story with the community around the farm) made every drop of sweat on that day so worth it.As for Andrew, he get major points for lengths to which he traveled to keep his eat local goal, but he didn't end things as optimistic as he began. Times have changed. The farm system is really messed up. We can't live in a seemingly more idyllic time when we ate off our land. His conclusion, or at least the version of it that stuck with me, is that we can do little things to reclaim that ideal though.
Andrew maintained much of his new local eating lifestyle: keeping up gardens in his front and back yards, buying farm shares, hanging out with farmers. It's the image he captures of a long table of farmers and friends outside at sunset passing dinner dishes, presumably made from locally grown foods— a glossy magazine image that we can in fact practice on a smaller scale with friends and food and the land around us, whatever it might look like.
|Photo from EatingAlabama.com|