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If you go
What: Fort Wayne Farm Show
Where: Memorial Coliseum
When: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday
Admission: Free
Parking: $4 main lot; $8 preferred lot Highlights today
11:30 a.m. – Lunchroom event, “Federal Policy Effects on Agriculture,” Appleseed Room B
5 p.m. – “Farm to Fork” seminar, Appleseed Room A
Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Farm equipment towers over visitors to the Fort Wayne Farm Show on Tuesday at Memorial Coliseum, where a seminar today will explore the farm-to-fork issue.

Farm-to-fork mindset puts focus on animal treatment

The farm-to-fork feud rages on.

A debate over agricultural methods involves growers who feel animals should be allowed to behave as naturally as possible. They say the benefits are more humane treatment and better-tasting and healthier food.

Many commercial farm operators, however, say confining some animals protects them and consumers’ food from harm.

The tone is expected to be civil during a 5 p.m. seminar on the issue today at the 24th annual Fort Wayne Farm Show at Memorial Coliseum.

About 30,000 people are expected to attend the three-day expo that began Tuesday.

“Really, what you’re talking about are differences in production practices,” said Andy Dietrick, director of public relations for the Indiana Farm Bureau.

“It’s almost a philosophy for farmers. Farm-to-fork is nothing new, but it’s been getting a lot of play lately because people want to know where their food is coming from.”

As a result, Dietrick said, the number of farmers markets is growing, as is the production of free-range poultry in stores and organic produce. The industry is a more-than-$8 billion business nationally.

“If we can help new farmers tap into that market, that’s a good thing for everybody,” he said.

Alice Eshelman believes so.

She and her husband, Pete, own the Joseph Decuis restaurant in Roanoke, which bills itself as a true “farm-to-fork encounter.” Eshelman adheres to the farming values but admits it took some getting used to at first.

“I found that the eggs had a richer, dark yellow color and wondered if it would make my cookies taste different,” she said. “It did, but they are much more filling. Where I used to eat two eggs, I only need one now.”

Eshelman and her husband raise Japanese Wagyu livestock, which food experts have called some of the finest-tasting beef on the market. With a mixed livestock herd, the couple opened their restaurant in 2000 and began selling Wagyu products a few years later.

Treatment of the cattle involves allowing them to graze on hay in more open quarters than at larger farms and even permitting them to listen to various types of music. The Eshelmans say it results in a stress-free surrounding and a more tender meat.

“I have a customer who comes up from Fishers every month to get beef,” Alice Eshelman said. “If you have a happier animal, the food has to be better.”

pwyche@jg.net

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