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An “agvocate” is someone who advocates for agriculture. I didn’t grow up on a farm and, perhaps like some of you, I had been caught up in myths and inaccuracies, some romantic and some just negative, about farming.

My own journey to learn more about agriculture started about four years ago when I started reading about agricultural techniques and visiting farms and talking to farmers like William Shelton of Whittier, North Carolina, who grows tomatoes and hydroponic lettuce for Ingles, Alan Rose of New Sprout Organic Farms, Jamie Ager of Hickory Nut Gap Beef, Wes Eason of Sunburst Trout and Cassandra Barr of Harvest Farm.

Visiting farms of various sizes and types also helped me understand different challenges farmers face in dealing with insect and disease pressures. I found myself asking lots of questions and then began writing about my experiences and observations that turned into articles and blog posts. I have even interviewed many farmers on “Ingles Information Aisle” that airs Saturday mornings on WWNC 570am (or via iheart radio). You can find podcasts and posts onwww.inglesinfoaisle.com.

Along the way I stopped trying to classify farming methods as good versus bad and learned about the gray areas:

that you really can’t generalize about “all farmers.”

every crop and every season is different for the farmer.

that many conventional farmers were using organic methods.

that many organic and conventional farmers were using the same pesticides.

farmers I spoke to all wanted to use as little pesticide as possible because it’s expensive and time consuming to apply.

that some organic farmers were also growing conventional crops and planting GMO seeds, depending on what their markets required.

that many farmers had adopted GAPs (Good Agricultural Practices) to protect soil health, water quality and workers and ultimately consumers. (Note: Ingles Markets requires farmers to be GAP certified.)

I quickly discovered how much farmers, no matter what they farm, care for their land and soil and how hard they work to bring us safe and affordable food.

I am pro-farming ... I am an “AGvocate” and I want to say thank you to the farmers in our region and across our nation who grow the food that nourishes us.

Talk to Leah: Leah McGrath is the corporate dietitian for Ingles Markets. Follow her @InglesDietitian. Contact her at Lmcgrath@ingles-markets.com, 800-334-4936 or at www.ingles-markets.com/ask_leah.

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