Eye Sightings

The Consumer Eyes Blog

The Rise of the Celebrity Farmer

These days, celebrity chefs are everywhere – we watch their shows, eat at their restaurants (and all of their pop-ups, and spinoffs, and micro-chains), and buy their books and branded cookware. We crave the reassurance that we get from having a name and face attached to the food we eat, and it’s a trend that’s hardly fading away. In fact, it might be entering a new phase – that of the celebrity farmer. It’s great to know who made your meal, but it’s even better to know who made its ingredients.

Consumer Eyes’ offices are situated across from the famous Union Square Farmers’ Market, and we’ve always enjoyed browsing the stalls and getting to know the people who grow our food. But for many Americans, it’s not so easy to find out who’s growing their vegetables and collecting their eggs – which is why the USDA has launched its “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” program, which aims to strengthen the bonds between consumers and producers. The program even features a blog with stories highlighting regional farmers and traditional growing practices.

In the UK, farming has been a popular reality TV subject for a couple of years – and it looks like it’s catching on in the US. The hit series “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” an irreverent look at the challenges a New York couple faces when they buy and revive an upstate farm, is soon to begin its second season on Discovery’s Planet Green network. Their website offers products from the farm, and has also become something of a social hub for farming enthusiasts with a Chez Panisse bent.

Wondering what the future will hold? In a recent interview with the James Beard Foundation, sociologist Gary Fine said, “As with chefs, what the advent of the celebrity farmer brings up is the question of authenticity. The ideal farmer is the self-taught farmer, the naive farmer, the man of the soil. Are we going to see in 10 or 15 years farmers who, like Jean-Georges [Vongerichten] and other celebrity chefs, have 20 different farms that specialize in different produce? I think that is altogether possible.”