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Cara Harbstreet adds her voice to the Dinner Is Grown conversation

Fostering connections between food lovers, farmers and industry experts

What a year it’s been for food! I capped off a jam-packed spring travel season with the “Dinner Is Grown” Event with BASF in North Carolina. Even before I stepped onto the grounds of Fearrington Village, I had a lot of food for thought as I considered the food I eat daily.


Between conferences for continuing education, farm tours, industry events, and networking opportunities with fellow dietitians, there is a constant buzz around food production in my world. I field questions on a daily basis about food. People are always curious about nutrition; they want to know how we should be eating and what “healthy” or “sustainable” really means. I recognize nutrition is important to consider, but lately our diet-obsessed culture has gotten us a little off track. My personal and professional philosophy is rooted in helping people rediscover joy in eating deeply nourishing meals without restriction or fear. And let me just say, there has been a LOT of fear driving my clients’ apprehension toward food.


I can totally relate to the confusion; although I grew up in a rural area and have extensive training and education in nutrition, my understanding of food production was limited to say the least. One of the catalysts for growth in my private practice came when I started seeking more information about where our food comes from. But instead of looking to online sources or mainstream media, I sought to connect with the people who are intimately connected to growing and producing food. As cliche as it is, I’m from the Show Me State and I always value the opportunity to see for myself and form my own beliefs. Although I still have much to learn, it’s things like the “Dinner Is Grown” event that I’m able to stay engaged and keep these important conversations front of mind.


This meal was a prime example of how face-to-face conversations can open minds about ag-related topics that are often painted as black & white issues. I’m all about embracing the nuance (AKA, the “grey zone”) because nothing is ever truly black & white. One of the farmers who sat near me shared a really impactful story. He described how harsh winter weather disrupted holiday plans for not only his family, but his crew and their families as well. It shed light on the dedication and commitment they have to doing right by their land, their animals, and their business. And it really highlighted the human element that is woven into any story about agriculture or food.


That was just one example of many; we heard story after story that echoed similar themes. As I walked away from the table that night, I felt confident I formed connections with farmers, food lovers, and industry experts who I can call on the next time I feel hesitant about something related to food. This insight I gained will inform how I talk about food and what it means to me personally, and I consider it a privilege to be able to learn straight from the source. It might have been on a grander scale than what a typical meal looks like. But at the end of the day it wasn’t any different than a group of people with shared interests gathering together for an incredible meal on a beautiful evening, talking about the things that matter to them.


Credit: Cara Harbstreet, MS RD LD of Street Smart Nutrition: