Relationships Run Deep at the Farm City BBQ

Did you know that the average American eats 22 pounds of tomatoes each year? Or did you know that it takes 12 busy little honeybees collecting the nectar from 2,000 flowers to make a tablespoon of honey?

The National Farm City Council has spent more than 50 years providing local organizations with educational programs about the people who grow their food. National Farm City Week originated in 1955, as farmers were facing financial hardships and the agricultural industry had lost more than 1 million farms.

With a declining public perception, Charles Dana Bennett and Merle Tucker started the Farm City initiative to form a link between urban and rural residents. With the support of Kiwanis and the American Farm Bureau Foundation, the Farm City Initiative moved forward.

Following a bad crop season in Immokalee, the people of Naples invited the farmers to a barbeque. The following year, the farmers of Immokalee reciprocated the hospitality. The event still rotates from Naples to Immokalee annually.

The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce initiated the Farm City BBQ to help facilitate relationships with the county’s urban and rural residents, attracting 1,500 attendees. The regulars know to show up in jeans and boots, but you still see a few in suits and skirts.

In the spirit of building relationships, guests are served by local celebrities such as County Commissioners, State Representatives, Senators and even the Sheriff.

The event is steeped in tradition from the steak and corn to the tables made from stacked pallets. Immokalee farmers also donate vegetables fresh from the farm. The vegetables are usually packed in a plain brown bag and sold for $10, with the proceeds benefiting local youth development programs through the Collier County 4H Association , Youth Leadership Collier, The Collier County Junior Deputies League, and the Key Club International.

The Farm City BBQ has had a few bumps along the road. In 2005, Hurricane Wilma wiped out local crops. With no extra produce available to sell, Leadership Collier stepped in and organized a raffle. Leadership class members brought donations from hotels and jewelry stores, which raised nearly $2,000. The agriculture industry rebounded in 2006 and the vegetable sale resumed.

The event has truly been a community tradition with many business leaders involved in the planning and production.